I’ve concluded this might be my all – time favorite desert plant. Being from the midwest, until this past month, I'd never seen such plants before... and to find these all on my own was really special. It's been a truly amazing time for me since I left Phoenix. (Makes me almost happy my eyes didn’t meet the standards for the job driving a tour bus.)
First one I found:
Once upon a time, while walking out in the dull brown desert, I saw this plant stalk reaching up to the sky. I'd never seen anything like it. I thought it was a Yucca plant. The closer I got, it seemed the taller it got. I had taken my big tape measure out to measure a little 2' tall yucca plant... so I was able to measure this one... and it was over 18' tall the best I could determine.
But how sad. It was dead, completely dead.
Tape measure in hand, I fed it up the said of the stalk... 18’ plus.
Beside the dead plant there were a couple of small green ones coming up. I guess they grow for about 25 years, then grow this massive stalk, bloom, and then the whole plant dies as it took so much from the plant, it kills the plant. Then the giant seed stalk just stands and blows in the wind, like the first one I saw, until decay and 30-50mph winds topple it.
Second plant I found: Walking down the southeastern slope of our Spring Camp few days later I came across a live plant that looked to be the same thing. I have large hands and both my hands together would not stretch around this stalk near it's base.
A couple of weeks later it was 50% taller and beginning to put out branches, or buds or flowers. Someone said it was an Agave. Looking at Google Images... “The flowering stalk of an agave - Plant of the Century. The plant lives for decades and flowers only once, before it dies.”
Someone said, and I had also read, that the plant only blooms once and then dies. I didn't believe it as this one had a dead stalk laying beside it.
On closer inspection today (5/12/2013) I noticed the decaying remains of an older plant in the shadow of this live one... and it was clear that the old dead stalk on the ground had come from the dead plant. Notice the new plant to the right of the stalk shadow.
Today, (5/12/13) it was even taller and estimating it's height by the size of my four-foot ladder, and my shadow next to the plant, it seems to be about 18' also. The stalk is not as purple as the first day I found it, and the buds are not nearly fully opened yet. I'm sad... I wanted to get photos of the full bloom before I left the area.
Third plant I found:
I walked some more today and found the first tall dead plant that I found a few weeks ago. And leaving it, heading back toward my van, I found a third one blooming Agave plant.
Near it was another dead plant and stalk on the ground. So, maybe it is true what they said... they bloom once and die. Then I noticed this one nearby... another tall-one-to-be in a few more years (or decades) Google said they live 25 years. Just beautiful.
The third Agave was not as tall of the one down the southeastern slope of our camp.... still probably going to be just as pretty.
Since I won’t get to see them fully bloomed, I borrowed this photo from http://www.naturesongs.com/vvplants/centuryplant.html. The flower stalk takes so much energy from the plant and surrounding area, that the plant must die after it blooms... living a seed stalk.
While looking at Google Images to identify those three Agave plants, I saw photos of this plant... one I had found in Phoenix before I left and which was also identified as an Agave. These had just amazed me. So very beautiful.
Yes, I do believe, the Agave will be my all-time favorite desert plant.