Mike Palmer stands next to the 80-year-old American agave plant inside the convservatory at the University of Michigan's Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor. The plant is about to bloom soon for the first, and only time. / University of Michigan

A huge stalk shoots 16 feet skyward from an 80-year-old American agave plant inside the conservatory at the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, growing at a rate of about six inches a day.

Soon, branches will emerge from the stalk, and it will bloom for the first — and only — time in 80 years, says Mike Palmer, horticulture manager for the gardens and Nichols Arboretum.

“They only bloom once,” Palmer says. “They set seeds, and then the entire plant that’s attached to that root dies. It’s really a special event.” They keep raising the roof to accomodate this bloom.....READ MORE HERE

Chiefly Mexican, agaves are also native to the southern and western United States and central and tropical South America. They are succulents with a large rosette of thick, fleshy leaves, each ending generally in a sharp point and with a spiny margin; the stout stem is usually short, the leaves apparently springing from the root. Along with plants from the related genus Yucca, various Agave species are popular ornamental plants.
Agave harvesting in Java

Each rosette is monocarpic and grows slowly to flower only once. During flowering, a tall stem or "mast" grows from the center of the leaf rosette and bears a large number of short, tubular flowers. After development of fruit, the original plant dies, but suckers are frequently produced from the base of the stem, which become new plants.

It is a common misconception that agaves are cacti. They are not related to cacti, nor are they closely related to Aloe whose leaves are similar in appearance.

Agave species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species, including Batrachedra striolata, which has been recorded on A. shawii.

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