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Mr. Smarty Plants - Both large and small Century plants putting up stems from Cayucos CA

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Monday - November 18, 2013

From: Cayucos, CA
Region: California
Topic: Propagation, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Both large and small Century plants putting up stems from Cayucos CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a Century Plant that is sending up a stem. I am excited to see it bloom. I noticed that one of the small pups, about 4 inches tall, is also sending up a stem. I have not found a mention of pups having a stem in my internet searching. Do you have any idea why a pup has a stem? It is very curious and cool.

ANSWER:

There are ten members of the Agave genus with the common name "Century Plant" native to North America, but only three, Agave americana (American century plant), Agave deserti (Desert agave) and Agave shawii (Coastal agave), are native to California. This probably doesn't matter to you, but it is one way we have to attempt narrowing down what plant we are talking about. In this case, it still doesn't matter, because none of them are native to San Luis Obispo County, CA. All three are native to Riverside County and/or San Diego County, down in the desert southwest of California, which is where we would expect a desert plant to grow. If we may be excused for being facetious, that little plant may be so surprised at growing in a lush seaside area like San Luis Obisbo county that it is throwing up a bloom stalk just to show it can.

From our webpage on Agave deserti (Desert agave), please read this paragraph:

"The Century Plant is a member of the agave family (family Agavaceae). Agaves are stout plants with woody stems or stem-bases, often tall, even tree-like, the long and narrow leaves crowded in rosettes at ends of stems or branches, a stout rapidly growing flower stalk arising from the rosette. Century Plants do not take a century to flower, but it may take them several decades to store enough food reserves to supply the rapidly growing stalk and mature the seeds. Then the rosette, often representing the entire plant, dies."

We (strictly guessing here) are thinking that if the baby plant is a true offshoot of the "mama," the growth hormones in the mama may have influenced the stalk in the baby. However, the baby has not had the many years of maturity needed to make a bloom and the stalk on it will likely wilt and drop off. And, if it is that closely linked to the mama, it will probably die when the mama does, after producing her bloom.

 

From the Image Gallery


American century plant
Agave americana

Coastal agave
Agave shawii

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