"We just noticed some buds starting to open on the agave. At last!" said
The first flowers were spotted Tuesday afternoon on the lowest branch of the agave, which is beginning to show anthers or stamens or both, according to the botanical gardens' Facebook page.
Hundreds of people have flocked to the gardens to see the plant in recent weeks, as a huge stalk shot nearly 28 feet skyward and more than a thousand buds began to form on branch-like structures, called peduncles.
The agave should bloom for the next several weeks, after which, the plant will die, said
Although the plant will die after it flowers, Palmer said it will 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 -- related to asparagus -- is unusual because it was collected during a university botanical expedition to
Often called century plants because they bloom so infrequently, Palmer has said that most agaves will bloom in nature in 10 to 25 years. The American agave is native to
Why it took so long for this particular plant to bloom is a mystery, he said.
"I don't know why it chose this year to flower. We're not sure what the environmental cues are to induce it into flowering," Palmer said in an earlier interview. "It was probably in a pot for a long time, which would reduce the progression of its growth."
What also makes this plant different is that its leaves are variegated, which is a genetic mutation.
"Eighty years ago, they found this, thought it was unique because in nature variegated plants usually don't survive," he said. "They have less chlorophyl, so they're not as robust growing. Also, variegated plants will sunburn."
In May, as the plant's stalk neared 20 feet tall, workers at the botanical gardens climbed a ladder and scaffolding to remove a glass panel from the roof of the conservatory so the plant would have room to grow through the ceiling.
Palmer is trying to contact the
"It's even taking its time blooming," Mooney said.
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