Friday, May 13, 2011

Century Plant

Whatever happened to Blogger this week ate some posts. But here's this one:

The Agave americana is a huge, spiky succulent native to Mexico. It grows in a rosette that can be up to 13 feet wide. Its long grey-green leaves are stiff and heavy, spiny on the sides and with a formidable pointy spike at the end. It can live a long time - up to thirty years.

Its longevity - somewhat exaggerated - lends it one of its common names - the Century Plant. The Agave americana is also known as the maguey, and it's an important plant in Mexican culture. Its fibrous leaves are used to make rope and cloth. Its sweet sap is fermented to make pulque, which can be distilled into mezcal. Similarly, tequila is made from another agave species.

The cool thing about the Century Plant is that it only blooms once - and then it dies. So all those thirty years or so of growth is focused on one blossom.

May 1st, as it starts
There are plenty of agaves around Topanga, but right now there's one on my street that is starting to put up a bloom spike. I've been watching it every morning as Jack and I take our walk.

Mothers Day weekend

 When the plant is done flowering, it will die - the stalk will shrivel and the core of leaves will dry up. Agaves develop "pups" or divisions, but the main plant dies. All those years for just one thing - to flower and be pollinated and set seed.

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