Century-old news about Century Plants
My story about the giant agave in Baltimore's Conservatory and Botanic Garden, which was nipped by frost and will die without producing its once-in-a-lifetime flower plume, piqued the interest of Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell.Its common name is Century Plant because that's about how long it takes before it matures and blooms -- and then dies. But it is tough to track its bloom cycle because nobody is around for the whole hundred years.
But Paul found several news articles in the archives of The Sun describing this rare occurrence.
In June 1897, there was a story in The Sun about a giant agave at the White House that had send up its fast-growing flower stalk and was set to bloom at any minute. Records suggest it had been at the White House for 70 years.
There was also a report in a July 1881 edition of The Sun describing a collection of agaves in Patterson Park (under a headline "Our Suburban Parks.")Photo credit: Baltimore Sun/Jed Kirschbaum
In October 1907, at Evergreen, the Charles Street home of Mrs. T. Harrison Garrett, a 35-year-old agave sent up a 28-foot stalk and was reported by The Sun to be in full bloom.In September of the same year, a century plant at the East North Avenue home of a woman only identified as Mrs. Dell "was in bloom last night and was the object of admiration from many of Mrs. Dell's neighbors and friends."
Meanwhile, in July of 1895, an agave was blooming on the Catonsville property of August Auer & Sons with more than 1,000 buds, according to The Sun. Mr. Auer planned to cut the plant up and give pieces of it away as souvenirs when it died.And finally, The Sun carried a lengthy and overwrought story in July 1902 describing the blooming of the plant at the St. Paul Street home of Mr. Douglas H. Thomas.
"Persons passing on the opposite side of the street looked in wonder at the stalk without knowing what it was or guessing that this plant, after a century of stagnation, was about to burst forth into blossom."Clearly, a bloom so rare is worth the purple-est prose.