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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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

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Wednesday - December 17, 2008

From: Bridgewater, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Best of Smarty, General Botany
Title: Is there a flower that blooms only once in seven years?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Just wanted to know if there exists a flower that blooms only once in seven years? Thank you!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants has found the Himalayn lily (Cardiocrinum giganteum) that  flowers after seven years of growth. Here are photos of the Himalayan lily.  After it blooms the plant dies. Plants with this reproductive strategy are known as monocarpic, i.e., they flower and produce fruit only once in their lifetime and then die. All annuals and biennials are monocarpic, but there are also many perennial plants that are monocarpic.  Some of these may live for 90 years before flowering and then dying. Some of the more notable examples are the Agaves or Century Plants (e.g., Agave americana (American century plant) and Agave parryi (Parry's agave)) of the desert Southwest.  Another spectacular example from the southwestern U. S. is the Monument Plant (Frasera speciosa) and another beautiful plant in the western U.S. Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) is also monocarpic.  In Hawaii Haleakala Silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense) flowers only once in its lifetime of 15-50 years. Many bamboo species are also monocarpic and, additionally, all members of a particular bamboo species bloom simultaneously.

 

From the Image Gallery


American century plant
Agave americana

Parry's agave
Agave parryi

Elkweed
Frasera speciosa

Scarlet gilia
Ipomopsis aggregata

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