Rare plant grows 27ft in two months in Devon garden, and will now die – Devon Live
A super-rare Mexican agave plant has burst into bloom in a Devon garden for the first time in a lifetime – after growing 27ft in two months.
But the ultimate late-bloomer in Julia Hardy’s garden will now die as soon as it’s final frond unfurls.
Giant agave only bloom once in a lifetime and after lying dormant for decades in Julia’s garden in Sidmouth, a thick stem burst from the plant in early June.
The plant – which very rarely flowers in the UK – grew at an extraordinary rate of up to 3ft a week and now reaches the third storey of the home with a ‘flower’ on the top.
But it is a monocarpic plant – it only flowers once a lifetime after a super-speedy growth spurt and then immediately starts to die.
Tourists have been stopping to take photos of the beast in Salcombe Road which can be seen from the end of the street.
Keen gardener Julia, 62, admitted she will be sad to say goodbye to the incredibly rare specimen – and will even need to hire a van to get rid of the massive stem.
Thankfully a baby off shoot – a humble three foot tall – has sprouted up nearby, so in a few decades time she could have another flowering agave in her garden.
Julia, who has an art gallery and holiday lets, said: “I’m estimating it is now 25ft tall.
“It’s almost up to the gutter level of my three storey house.
“I think it will take a long time to actually die and the spike will stay for some time even when it is dead.
“I will miss the plant like crazy.
“I has been a talking point and a local landmark for the last few years, ever since it got bigger – it was big before the flowering spike formed.
“People have always stopped to photograph it, and it has always been lovely to see the level of interest, especially from young people who often take photos.”
The plant was in Julia’s front garden as a small bush when she moved in 12 years ago.
Despite being rare, she admits she hasn’t done anything to care for it – or even watered it – despite being a keen gardener.
“I have to admit I have never cared for it in any way other than in one harsh winter I did throw a duvet across it,” she said.
“But it has had snow on it and I’ve never done anything special to look after it.
“I have never even watered it ever – never once.”
It was just a small bush until a few years ago when a stalk grew out the top, stopping at about 7ft tall.
Then out of the blue in June it started to sprout at an incredible speed – up to six inches a day – a sign it is about to flower.
Not it stands at nearly 30ft tall and the fronds and flowers have started to unfurl and open.
“I’ve always thought it was a big specimen as we have seen them in Portugal and they are really quite small,” said Julia, a grandmother-of-four.
“The flower spikes started at the end of June and they have been growing up to six inches a day.
“By the end of June it was about 18 to 20 ft tall. It was growing incredibly quickly.
“As soon as it started it just grew faster and faster. Then the buds came and I knew it was going to flower. Of course once it flowers that will be it – it will die.
“It’s quite sad really, it only flowers once in its life and dies. I love it so I am going to miss it. I’ve always had it there and I shall be sad to see it go.
“When people say to me ‘where do you live?’ I’m able to say ‘it’s the house with the plant’ and people know. My son said that I should harvest it and have a tequila party.”
The giant American agave is native to south-western United States and Mexico and specimens can grow for up to 100 years before flowering and dying.
Humans have been harvesting the American agave’s leaves, sap and stem for around 9,000 years.
If the stem is cut before flowering it produces a sweet liquid known as aguamiel, or honey water, which can be fermented to produce a drink called pulque.
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