Saturday, February 20, 2010


Agave is a plant with a large rosette of thick fleshy leaves (a circular arrangement with leaves at a single height), each ending in a sharp point. Each rosette is monocarpic, meaning it flowers just once, sets seeds, and then dies. One species is known as the "century plant" referring to the long time the plant takes to flower. It can take up to 20 years for the agave to flower. The agave rosette, below, is in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
During flowering, a tall stem or "mast" grows from the center of the rosette. The agave below, in the San Felipe Hills, has started growing a mast.

This agave, also in the San Felipe Hills, is beginning to grow flower buds at the tip of the mast.

A close-up of the developing flower buds.
These agave, in the San Felipe Hills, have developed further, with stems hanging off the mast, each with flower buds. The Pacific Crest Trail is in the background.

A closer view.

A different agave in approximately the same stage.

A closeup of the buds, this one in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

This agave, in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is flowering. I have only seen them flower once. That was last year when I went at the end of May, later than I usually go.

This agave flower has a little more orange color in it.

Another closeup of a more yellow flower.

It may be that the more orange flowers have been blooming longer and are on the decline.

An even closer view. The flowers are odd looking, like the head of a cockapoo, or perhaps Phyllis Diller.

When the kids were little and we were on one of our National Park trips, we bought a wonderful children's book called "Agave Blooms Just Once" by Gisela Jernigan, illustrated by E. Wesley Jernigan. It was an A to Z book with illustrations of animals and plants of the Sonoran Desert. The first illustration was of a blooming agave, on a hillside, with a bobcat in the background. The wording was, "A is for agave, it blooms just once, then dies." 21 years later, when I see an agave, the words of the title ring out in my mind, "Agave blooms just once." Below is the illustration from the book.

These dried seed pods are on a dried mast on a dead agave.
A closer view of the seed pods.
Finally, a dead and fallen agave, looking from the rosette toward the top.

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