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Rare, giant plant set to show off once-a-century bloom

An exotic flower, called the Puya raimandii, is beginning to bloom at the University of California, Berkley’s botanical garden
An exotic flower, called the Puya raimandii, ... 01:52

They say the best things in life are worth waiting for. And for most people, the chance to see this rare endangered plant bloom will only come once in a lifetime.

In the wild, the Puya raimondii, also known as the Queen of the Andes, only blooms when the plant reaches an age of about 80 to 100 years old.

Now one of the plants at the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley is getting ready to blossom.

"I've been here 11 years and I've checked every year, dreaming it might bloom so I can see one in my lifetime," UC Botanical Garden Director Paul Licht told CBS San Francisco.

Typically the plants, which resemble a cactus, grow above a 12,000 foot elevation in South America, but the Puya raimondii at the UC Botanical Garden has survived against the odds.

"They're adaptive for cold, dry conditions with bad soil but that doesn't mean that's what they rather be doing. They just don't have any choice," said Licht.

The Berkeley plant is about 24 years old and is in the process of creating a bloom that could grow up to 30 feet high. In full bloom, it would be adorned with as many as 30,000 flowers.

It was planted at the garden in 1990 after researchers returned with the seed following a trip to Bolivia.

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