Monday, May 10, 2010

CENTURY PLANT

Do any of you have a Century Plant? I have some young ones. I have seen them around a lot for years. I heard that they only bloom once a century.
Never expected I would see one in bloom but maybe I will this year. This is a picture of one down the road from us. You can see it is way above the house. We keep looking for the bloom but so far all we see is the stalk.
It is very unusual plant. I look it up and this is what I found.
1933 Botanists realized again last week that "century plant" is a complete misnomer for the American aloe (Agave americana). In Mexico where it is called the maguey it takes only 15 years or so to store up the energy to bloom. Unblooming, it looks like an ordinary ground-palm: a rosette of long, pointed leaves spreading out from a central core. When its time comes it hastily pokes up a huge flowering stalk, thick as a tree trunk, from 15 to 40 ft. high, tops it with a huge cauliflower sprig with hundreds of little white or yellow tubular flowers. After holding this climax for a month, the tall stalk withers, the whole plant dies. Mexicans commonly intercept the climax by cutting out the stalk bud as soon as it shows, hollowing out a basin in the central core. The plant pours its banked energy into the place where the flower-stalk ought to be, produces a basin of sweet sap from which Mexicans make their national drink, syrupy pulque. By distilling fermented pulque they make mescal, a potent liquor. By letting the flower stalk grow, drying and slicing the firm pith, they get natural razor strops, insulating material. The legend that, north of Mexico, the maguey blossoms only once a century existed largely on lack of observation. The plant blooms naturally in the sunny Southwest. But in northern States the maguey requires the comforts of greenhouses. No northern specimen is known to have bloomed outdoors. Last July a 50-year-old plant belonging to Charles Curie of Cornwall, N. Y. began pushing a stalk bud up through its central core. At once he had the plant dug out of his greenhouse and trucked to the Bronx Park Botanical Gardens where experts could replant it in the open and study its blossoming under natural conditions. Last month the stalk began to grow at the rate of an inch an hour, grew 15 feet high, put out 600 grey-green buds. For four successive weeks experts announced the century plant was about to bloom, but no bud opened. Crowds came to gape at the monster stalk, the sulky buds. Director Elmer D. Merrill apologized, "This plant is 50 years old and I guess it's got a right to be temperamental. When a Park botanist saw one bud opening last week he was afraid to start premature hopes again, but two days later there were 20 blooms, next 43 more. Visitors were disappointed by the little yellowish blossoms, scarcely more spectacular than the buds. Last week's New Yorker, going to press before the four-weeks-overdue plant had put out its first blossom, beat Manhattan newspapers by printing a cartoon of a silk-hatted committee timing the blooming of a century plant with the cracker, "It's been a hundred years and ten minutes exactly."

I find this plant interesting. I am waiting for the blooms. the plant is so high I honestly don't know how we will be able to see. But we will be looking. I will post the bloom if I get to see one.

4 comments:

Jocelyn said...

Wow! That is interesting. I'd like to see pictures of one blooming sometime.

Dee said...

I have never seen a century plant. I would love to see the bloom. thanks for sharing. I love discovering new things.

Barbara said...

That is some plant sister, I have one but mine is very small, I really like this one, very impressive, lol hugs and hope your day is a blessed one. Stop by BB later and let us know how you are.
Love you, Hugs Barbara

They call me "Deb" said...

I think I've seen the plant but NEVER the bloom. I can't wait to see what the blossom looks like. Thanks for sharing this wonder with us.