Onlookers gathered Wednesday to see the wispy yellow flowers emerge from more than a thousand buds high up on the 28-foot stalk of the rare plant in the conservatory of the
"I thought they'd be bigger," Perry said of the flowers, which began to unfurl Tuesday afternoon. "I think it's just beginning. We'll be back next week for sure."
"Wow! It is higher than the ceiling! What are the green things that go like this?" he asked, holding his hands in the shape of the buds. Nathaniel then pointed to the huge stalk, and asked: "Will it crash on the other plants?"
Palmer laughed, and explained that the green things are flower buds on the verge of opening, and that the stalk will have to be closely monitored to make sure it doesn't fall.
Over the next several weeks, the agave will fully bloom, and then die. Palmer said it it is likely to leave behind many pups -- genetic clones that look like mini versions of the mother agave -- and potentially thousands of seeds.
Visitors will be able to buy some of those seeds and baby plants, if all goes as planned, Palmer said.
This agave is unique because it was collected during a university botanical expedition to
Often called century plants because they bloom so infrequently, Palmer said most agaves will bloom in nature in 10 to 25 years. The American agave is native to
In nature, the plants are pollinated primarily by Mexican long-nosed bats, sphinx moths and hummingbirds. To pollinate the flowers here in
All the fuss over the plant has led to a 50% rise in visitors at the gardens so far this spring and summer, said spokesman
"It's got it all: life, death, transfiguration, rebirth," he said.
Palmer reached his hand toward the center of the plant and felt one of its tentacle-like leaves. He pointed out the wrinkles beginning to form, and the sagging tissue.
"All of its energy is going into the stalk," he said. "It's losing its turgidity" -- signs that this truly is the beginning of the end for the enormous agave.
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