Sunday, April 15, 2007

An endangered candidate for Bloom Day

I promised to give an update on this and am using Bloom Day for it, because it's more interesting than anything on my property. A while back I posted about the century plant at the Botanical Gardens, which has been pushing up a flower stalk (right through the glasshouse roof) for the last 2 months or so. I voiced my doubts that it would make it in the cold air, and I'm not the only one. In today's Buffalo News:

Now, with the tip exposed to punishing wind, rain and snow, the huge plant may not live to do what century plants are famous for — flower for the first and only time in its life and then die.

“It hasn’t done much the last two weeks,” fretted Botanical Gardens horticulturist Doug O’Reilly. “Supposedly, as long as the base stays warm it should be OK.”

If the cruel April weather conditions persist, and the century plant dies prematurely, visitors to the South Park conservatory will miss a natural phenomenon.

The spike, which resembles a giant asparagus stalk, normally would rise to a height of about 20 feet, 10 feet above the greenhouse roofline, and then burst out in a bouquet of yellow or reddish-pink, pad-like blooms.

Because the stalk’s rapid growth sucks up all of the plant’s nutrients, the show would be brief. The whole plant, 10 feet wide at the base, would quickly go kaput, leaving only a brown seed stalk.

If it makes it through this week, it should be OK.

Meanwhile, I see that many others have posted about hellebores and such, so I offer some indoor action: a late-blooming hippeastrum and some other houseplants. This is why I defend houseplants so fervently; in weather like this, you really need them!


Carol said...

I'm looking forward to regular updates on this Century plant. I'm also wondering if it will make it in Buffalo. And then I thought about once it dies, how much compost will be made of the stalk and all.

And I totally agree that flowering houseplants are a necessity in climates with real winters.

Thanks for an interesting twist to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and the nice comment on my blog.

Annie in Austin said...

You are so right, Elizabeth! Although I don't need them as much in Texas, I felt that my houseplants were totally necessary to sanity when we lived in Illinois. I had a few double impatiens [they look like little roses] that cheered me up immensely.

And like Carol, I hope you'll let us know what happens to the Century Plant.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I'm not sure that it's more interesting than anything else on your property right now... but I'm looking forward to the century plant updates. It will be interesting to know whether Ma Nature or the huge hulking plant wonder will win this battle, you know?

EAL said...

By the way, in case you guys didn't know or didn't read the whole article, the juice from this is poisonous--you can't make tequila from it or anything, which would have been one good use of the dead plant.

mmw said...

1. The leaves of the plant in that article def. do not belong to Agave parryi (which are much shorter and fatter).

2. Agave parryi is in fact one of the most important species for the traditional production of mezcal. Your gardeners seem to be extremely confused about how this is made -- try this for starters.

EAL said...

Well, they're not "my" gardeners, but I think it's more likely the News screwed it up. In my original post on this I called it American agave (Agave americana), which was the name I read on the label. So there does seem to be some confusion here.

But I suppose the gardeners at the Botanical may be as ignorant about the production of mezcal as I am. I drink it. but I don't make it. So I took their word.

EAL said...

Ok, I looked it up in a BOOK (I take extreme measure in such cases) and it is americana. But the two--parryi and americana are very similar.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Now I want to go alter my High Country Gardens order to include the a. parryi that I almost ordered in the first place...

mmw said...

Elizabeth, you must think I visit just to torment you with nitpicky comments -- sorry! However, I do have to point out that among other differences A. americana is much bigger than A. parryi (6-8' diameter vs.2.5' -- a significant difference in the landscape). A. parryi var. truncata, which is on the latest Plant Delights top 25, is particularly attractive.

I'm sure the paper is at fault. I just wanted to point out that mezcal production has nothing to do with the leaves.

EAL said...

I think we should blame this entire thing on the Buffalo News. Judging by their gardening coverage, there's not a lot of expertise down there.

I'll be over to check on the americana this weekend.

chuck b. said...

In CA, where A. americana is a workhorse, I think it's nice to leave the dead inflorescence up as long as it will stand--birds make homes in it.