Century Plants

2012 has brought some botanical excitement on the Island Club grounds. Our property is home to four large Agave Americana plants. These are commonly referred to as the misnomer “Century Plant”. They actually live 10 to 30 years, not for a full century. These Agave plants were planted on our property in the early 1990s according to our Master Gardner and Head of Landscaping, Mr. Bill Ellis.

The Century Plant is a very large plant that grows throughout the world and is very hearty. The bulk of the plant is a spreading rosette, or circular arrangement of leaves, which are a greenish-gray in color. The rosette can span up to 13 feet wide. Each leaf can grow up to 6 and a half feet long, with a spiny edge and a spiked tip that is so sharp and strong it can pierce all the way to the bone.

At the end of a Century Plant’s life it flowers. However, these Agave plants flower in a unique style. First, the Agave must grow a stem… a stem that stands up to 26 feet tall and looks like a large spike. Once it gets up in height, small stems branch off at the top of the spike creating clusters of large yellow flowers. Once the Century Plant is done flowering, it will die. However the Century Plant is a surculose plant, therefore throughout its life, it creates suckers or basal shoots which grow from buds near the roots of the existing plant. In other words, while the main plant dies, it has already created future generations to grow in its place prior to dying.

If you look at any of our six large Agave plants, you will notice each has several suckers, some already a few feet in diameter.

So why so much “excitement” for us regarding a plant? Our Agave located near Tennis Court #2 has sprouted a massive 23+ foot stalk and is preparing to bloom! Below are photos of the Agave Plant at the Tennis courts. If you happen to be visiting the property sometime soon (May/June 2012) be sure to make a trek over to the Tennis Center to check out the Agave. Take note of how it towers over the nearby Palmetto Tree too!

Special Thanks to Mr. Bill Ellis and Wikimedia Foundation Inc. for a crash course in botany.