Once in a Lifetime Experience at Rockefeller Greenhouse

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Fri, 05/19/2006 - 10:52.

The century plant sure knows how to go out with a bang! 


At Rockefeller Greenhouse, the century plant is about to bloom. If you have visited the greenhouse any time in the last  60 or 70 years you probably saw the century plant -- its the huge centerpiece of the succulent garden. Why is this such a big deal?

The century plant, agave americana, as its known by its botanical name, sends up a 15-30' stalk with yellow blooms as wide as 6' across as it nears the end of its lifecycle. Agave americana is moncarpic, that means it dies after it blooms. Plants must be at least 10 years old to bloom, but they often over 60 when they bloom. The century plant grows naturally in arid areas of the American southwest, Texas, Florida and Mexico. Of course its very rare to see one in NEO. They don't make good house plants and can't survive the climate here.

When I visited on Thursday May 18th and took pictures there were no blooms on the stalk yet. The Rockefeller Greenhouse staff estimates that the century plant is between 60-70 years old.  A glass panel had to removed from the roof and the stalk now protrudes about 5' above the height of the greenhouse. I wonder is the cool, wet weather will affect the blooms.

There are 2 great reasons to visit Rockefeller Greenhouse this weekend: the century plant and the annual flower sale. The flower sale is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10-4 (regular Greehouse hours) they will be selling plants from the Greenhouse and plants grown by members of three local garden clubs.

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