Monday, March 7, 2011

Agave Plants aka Century Plants

Agave Plants.

Century Plants on the side of the road.

This is not a very good picture but you can kind of see the plants, at least the tall center stem.

Century plants all over the hillside, most are not in bloom in this picture, but you can see how many there are.

Century plant, this one is not in full bloom yet.

As we have driven to different places I have noticed an interesting plant. Last time we went to Otavalo there were so many of these plants in bloom it was fun to see. One of the other missionaries said they were called century plants and only bloom once every 100 years. This made me curious so I did some research. They are indeed called century plants but this a misnomer. They do have a once-in-a-lifetime-bloom but they usually bloom after 25 to 30 years, and the plant dies after blooming. The plant requires the right conditions to send up the stock and bloom. Usually moisture is required; we have had tons of rain so I guess the conditions were right, because we saw hundred´s in bloom. It was hard to get a good picture from the bus (the windows were very dirty); I will keep my camera ready next time we travel and hope we see more. The blooming stock grows 30-35 feet tall; it can grow 6-8 inches a day. The plant is often mistaken for aloe vera; in fact Columbus took several cuttings back with him thinking it was the plant Marco Polo had referred to for its healing powers. This plant is very toxic, several sites I read indicated that people had tried to trim it with chainsaws and their arms, or any exposed skin, was burned and blistered almost immediately. One site I looked at said that this plant is used to make digerie dos in Australia and in the Virgin Islands they are used for Christmas Trees. The leaves are very strong and can cut the skin to the bone; they were sometimes used as weapons. The inside of the leaves has a fiber and when the leave is cut just right it will make a needle and thread that natives used for sewing. One variety of Agave, called blue agave, is grown in Mexico and is used to make Tequila. You can Google century plant and see some interesting information, also search YouTube for some fun videos.


Lindsie said...

What an interesting looking plant! It only does the thin stock in the middle when it blooms? No wonder it dies--it seems like it would take a lot of energy to grow that big.

Trudy said...

How very interesting! A plant with many uses. Maybe you should try and get one for your yard. :)