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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 15, 2007

From: austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Semelparous: plant that dies after reproduces. Agave and bamboo.
Answered by: Damon Waitt

QUESTION:

There is a term for a plant who lives its life (usually more than 2 years) sends up a spectacular flowering structure, and then dies. what is that term? a certain plant that falls into that category is Agave americana. please let me know Mr. Smarty Plants!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants believes the term you are lookig for is semelparous. It is used to describe an organism that reproduces just once during its lifetime, after which death is inevitable. Examples include annual and biennial plants but also some longer lived plants like Agaves and Bamboo. This reproductive strategy is sometimes referred to as "Big Bang" reproduction, one Big output of offspring then you go out with a Bang. The opposite, of course, is iteroparous where an organism has multiple reproductive events during their lifetime.
 

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