80-Year-Old Agave Plant About To Bloom | Smart News | Smithsonian
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Agave plants blooming in Mexico (Patricio Robles Gil/ Sierra Madre/Minden Pictures/Corbis)

80-Year-Old Agave Plant About To Bloom

The 25-foot-tall plant is finally ready to bloom after 80 long years

smithsonian.com

After decades of care, the agave plant at the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum is getting ready to bloom. Its stalk is so tall that it outgrew its greenhouse. The plant now reaches a staggering 25 feet and has hundreds of buds that have been tantalizing plant lovers for days now. It’s immensely close to blooming, but the plant seems quite content taking its own sweet time.

From USA Today

This agave — related to asparagus — is unusual because it was collected during a university botanical expedition to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in 1934, and brought back to Ann Arbor by botanist Alfred Whiting, then a U-M graduate student. This variegated form of the American agave was collected from the wild, unlike most agaves sold today, which are cultivated from tissue samples, says Palmer.

Often called century plants because they bloom so infrequently, Palmer said in an interview last month that most agaves will bloom in nature in 10 to 25 years. 

They also usually grow to a height of 15 to 30 feet in the wild, so this particular plant is approaching its upper limits both in terms of age and size. After it blooms, it will die, but its legacy will live on. USA Today also reports that if all goes well, visitors to the gardens and arboretum will be able to purchase seeds and seedlings from the plant. 

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