Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Foxtail Agaves Bloom

There is a nice bed of Agave attenuata in my front yard and two of the largest are starting to bloom. It's all happening very quickly. This was about tw0 months ago:

This was four weeks later:

Another 4 weeks:

The bloom spikes are about 7 feet high now and the front one is starting to compete with a Magnolia tree that I planted a few months ago.

I've read different accounts of how long it takes A. attenuata to bloom and it could be anywhere between ten and twenty years. They can also be shocked into blooming from stress or a drastic change in condition. My house was vacant for a year before I moved in and the whole property had clearly been neglected. I've been watering the last couple Summers so maybe the plants are taking this opportunity to reproduce in case another dry spell is on the way. I'm not sure if that explains the upheaval but I can't help wondering.

Here is a close up showing the flower buds:

When they open it will make the bloom spike look like a bushy foxtail, hence the common name foxtail agave. You can also see the leaves of the plant starting to shrivel and turn red. These blooms are a bittersweet thing. They are spectacular to see but it also means that this plant will die. The good news is that new plants could grow out of the trunk and baby plantlets called bulbils could form on the bloom spike once it is done blooming. The bulbils can be removed and planted.

I'll post more progress photos later

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