Monday, May 13, 2013

Agave… the Century Plant

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 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.


  1. Beautiful plants, how I envy you being out in nature able to enjoy all that it offers.

    1. Thank you, Ellen. Is something stopping you from same?

  2. It sounds like a kind of phoenix plant, the new one arising from the old. Fascinating.

    I would also like to recommend the nectar. I found it in the "sweetener" section of the local grocery, in the same kind of bottle that honey comes in. There are three strengths, from mild to strong, and the stronger one tastes a bit like maple syrup. Wonderful.

    I'm currently stuck in PA and really miss the West so I'm glad I found your blog and can at least enjoy your travels - and the lovely pictures.

    1. Thank you, Meg. The nectar sounds interesting. I think I need to check out other sweeteners, since I have such a crazy sweet-tooth. I know white sugar isn't good for me.

      Oooo... I hate being "stuck" anywhere... reason I left the wilderness this week, with rain coming in... I knew because of the roads I went in on, that I'd be stuck, and as much as I love wilderness, I hate being stuck even more.

      I hope you get un-stuck soon.

    2. I got some maple-flavored Agave syrup today.


Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.