Mountains fit for a queen © Cyril Ruoso/Minden Pictures
Like sentinels standing guard, these towering stalks are flowers of the queen of the Andes, the world"s largest bromeliad—some specimens can grow up to 50 feet tall. This extraordinary plant has adapted to grow only in the adverse conditions found on the high slopes of the Bolivian and Peruvian Andes. To see several of them in bloom at once is truly special, for the queen of the Andes sends up her flowering stalk just once, after a century or so of painstaking growth. A single plant will bloom for about three months, producing anywhere from 8,000 to 20,000 flowers, then die.