RALEIGH, N.C. — If you’ve been waiting a century to see a legendary century plant in full bloom, you don’t have to wait any longer: A century plant in the WRAL Azalea Garden has just begun blooming.
According to legend, century plants bloom only once every hundred years – then whither and die. However, in reality the Agave Americana blooms every 10 to 30 years. The stalk grows rapidly and can reach impressive heights of up to 35 feet.
The marvel of seeing a century-plant in full bloom, with towering 20-foot stalks and leaves, is something some people only see once in a lifetime. It looks like something out of a Jurassic Park movie.
The plant itself is around 5 feet tall, but over the weekend a stalk became visible – stirring excitement in passersby and employees who thought it may be about to bloom for the first time. On Saturday the stalk was a little under 2 feet, but by Tuesday the height had doubled – and the plant easily reaching over 8 or 9 feet tall.
It will grow rapidly over the next few weeks, according to experts, with yellow flowers blooming from the tall stalk.
A picture showing one of our taller employees shows context for the plant’s current height: Sean is 6’2″, and the plant is already towering over him. It’ll grow far more over the next few weeks.
Century plants are native to Arizona, Texas and Mexico and are considered a rare species.
Romantic legend of the century plant
According to a song recorded in 1969 called La Ley del Monte, if lovers carve their name into the blades of the century plant, it will either provide good luck or be a proof of their undying love.
The original lyrics in Spanish translate to:
I recorded your name on the stalk of an aloe
joined to mine, interlaced. Like a proof
before the law of the mountain
that there we were in love.
The song can be found here.
Culturally, the century plant is a source of food, fuel and alcohol in Mexico. The flowers from the stalk are mashed and used in the distillation process for one beverage. The heart of the plant is used to create another fermented beverage called pulque, which sometimes has spiritual and medicinal customs associated with it.
Other century plants in Raleigh and throughout NC
They were shocked when their own plant grew from a tiny agave into an enormous, pre-historic looking giant.
The blooming of a century plant is a rare enough sight that people often travel in order to see them. Several years ago when one bloomed on the NC coast, people made the pilgrimage to pose next to it for photos.
The century plant at WRAL was planted in October of 2016. However, at that time it was already a mature plant, so the exact age of our plant is unknown.
Visitors are welcome to come see WRAL’s century plant as it completes its rare bloom. Afterwards, the plant will die and release new ‘pups,’ which can grow anew.
Watch WRAL’s century plant grow
The century plant is expected to grow throughout May and complete its growth in June, when it could reach over 30 feet tall.