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Plant in Ashland flowers for first time in 30 years

While not quite as rare as a comet that appears in the night sky every 6,000 years, the flowering in Ashland of an agave americana — otherwise known as the century plant — is still a floral treat.

“I knew it would happen one day,” says Doug Hormel, owner of Plant Connection, an Ashland nursery on Neil Creek Road, which he established in 1981. Hormel planted the agave in 1990, and he says the century plant’s flowering hadn’t crossed his mind since.

Now, the 30-year-old succulent — a member of the asparagaceae family — has sprouted a 10-foot-tall, 3-inch-thick stalk bearing clusters of bright yellow blossoms.

This particular agave isn’t just a late bloomer. The long reproductive cycle is typical for the species, according to Hormel. The century plant usually lives from 10 to 30 years, flowering only once in its lifetime.

Hormel says the agave started blooming near the end of May. It took a month for the bloom to reach its full height, which Hormel says is pretty fast, considering the scale of growth.

He believes the plant, which is native to northern Mexico and the southern United States, will remain in full bloom for the next two weeks.

The flowers, however, mark the beginning of the end for the plant. After the bloom, the main stalk of the plant will die, but the pups — young agaves produced at the base of the plant — will survive and can continue to grow.

“It’s a pretty amazing reproductive cycle,” Hormel says.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune An Agave bloom Saturday morning in Ashland.