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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Tuesday - June 17, 2008

From: Blythe, CA
Region: California
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Large agave (century plant) flower stalk
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

HI.I live in Blythe, Ca. and have a GIANT of an agave in my back yard. It is now over 40'high and is blooming. I first noticed the stock growing at Easter when it was about 12' high. It is now taller than the power lines, the mulberry tree and the pecan tree. It is nestled between these two trees. The stalk is quite large around and when my son knocked on it the sound was solid like a tree trunk. It is still blooming and the branches reach out quite far, probably at least 4 or 5 feet. The leaves on the bottom of the plant have started to droop and turn yellow so it has begun its dieing process I guess.Is this an unusual size? Is it something that needs to be recorded or made note of? I have taken progress pictures of it since Easter. Something I find quite interesting are four stalks that have grown and pushed their way through the leaves. They are growing on other quite small agave plants at the base of the giant one. They, too, are blooming.and from plants that are only a few inches tall. Is this unusual? Years ago I planted cactus in a large tractor tire in my back yard. This is where it is growing and during the years it has multiplied several other plants around it. I am getting ready to leave for the summer this weekend and go to Utah to my cabin. I am concerned about what will happen with this plant while I am gone. How long does it take it to die completely? Will it fall or will it stay standing? How long a time frame do you think thi process will take? The flowers are blooming quite well.\r\nIf this is a record size plant, who should this be reported to in order to let this be known? I wish I had found this site sooner so that I could have written to you and gotten these answers before leaving for the summer. I would appreciate your response as soon as possible. Will you send me the answer by email? I REALLY appreciate your help.

ANSWER:

Apparently, your agave isn't a record. According to Center for Plant Conservation: "Some agave species have stalks that grow up to 40 feet tall." Nevertheless, we here at the Wildflower Center are VERY impressed with a 40-foot agave and would be very pleased if you could send digital images of it to us—preferably photographed with some sort of measuring device beside it such as a yard or meter stick or a person of known height. Visit the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page to read the instructions for submitting photographs under "Plant Identification".

If you contact your local newspaper or TV news, they might be interested in photographing and reporting this phenomenon. They love this sort of thing!

Don't worry about the flower stalk while you are gone this summer. They persist a long time, at least a couple of months, and it should still be standing when you return.

 

From the Image Gallery


American century plant
Agave americana

American century plant
Agave americana

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