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Thursday - October 06, 2005

From: Indianapolis, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany, Cacti and Succulents, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Monocarpic plants for Indiana
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We were in Hawaii this summer and became acquainted with the Silversword. This plant (according to what we were told) blooms only once in it's lifetime (of 50-70 years). Are you aware of any other plants that might be able to grow in Indiana that bloom infrequently (less than once a year)?

ANSWER:

Haleakala Silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense) does flower only once in its lifetime but that lifetime is only 15-50 years according to the National Biological Service. 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 dying. Some of the more notable examples, besides the Silversword, are the Century Plants, members of the Genus Agave, of the desert Southwest. Another spectacular example from the Southwest U. S. is the Monument Plant (Frasera speciosa). Still another beautiful plant in the western U.S. Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) is monocarpic. Many bamboo species are also monocarpic and, additionally, all members of a particular bamboo species bloom simultaneously.

The monocarpic perennial plants that I found for Indiana aren't quite as spectacular, but are quite interesting, nonetheless. They are Sand Dune Thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), and Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata) that may function as an annual, a biennial or sometimes a monocarpic perennial. There are doubtless more Indiana native plants that are also monocarpic perennials.

 

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