American Century Plant in Bloom

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I was leaving Beaufort after a meeting when I saw this giant flower stalk. I had noticed the huge at least five-foot-wide plant a couple of times over the last several years as I entered or left Beaufort on my way to meetings. It was hard for me to believe the plant was actually flowering or in the case of this photo, it was completing its flowering process. If you look at the base of the flower stalk, you will notice that the, once beautiful, gray-green foliage is now withering away and dying.

It’s called an American Century Plant Agave americana because it takes such a long time (30 or more years sometimes) to acquire enough energy to produce the flowering stalk that can reach up to 40 feet in height. This native to the desert southwest will grow here in our zone 8 climate, but it’s still rare to see one in bloom. After the bloom the mother plant withers and dies, as its life’s mission is complete.

American Century Plant

American Century Plant, Beaufort, NC/Image: Shawn Banks

I didn’t look super close as I was getting the picture, but often times little plants, called pups, will sprout around the base of the plant. These pups can be removed and planted elsewhere or they can be left to grow where they are. It will take another several years for them to develop into large enough plants to send up their own flower stalk.

The process of flowering can be helped along with water and fertilizer during the summer. However, because they are native to the desert southwest, they are well adapted to storing water for times of drought. They also accumulate nutrients when they can. The extra fertilizer and water that our area has naturally speeds up the process of reaching maturity.

If you have been accessing Beaufort on Turner Street over the last several weeks, I hope you’ve taken the time to notice this beautiful oddity. It may not happen again for several years.