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16 Aug 2021

The Giant Agave is set to flower

Back in May, we announced that the Agave salmiana or, Giant Agave/Pulque Agave in the Succulent Garden was set to flower this year, and we are still keenly anticipating this event in spring.  

While we wait for this special event, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this Giant Agave. 

What is the Giant Agave? 

Agave salmiana, also known as Giant or Pulque Agave is one of many types of Agave originating from South and Central America. This Agave has been growing in the Succulent Garden at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and is estimated to be 20 years old.  

After years of growth, this plant is set to spectacularly flower in early spring 2021. 

What makes this event so special? 

The goal of the Agave is to retain as much moisture as it can over its lifetime to generate sugars via photosynthesis. It stores these sugars in the leaves which helps it to generate its supportive structure and grow. After around 20 years, or when it reaches around 4m in height, it puts all this stored energy into a flowering display. 

Flowering is typically triggered by 12 months of consistent moisture in the soil which produces optimal conditions for the pups. 

As the Giant Agave is monocarpic, meaning that after it flowers it dies, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event for this special plant. The flowers produced are usually yellow and are striking to see! 

When will it flower? 

This Agave salmiana is likely to flower in September 2021. Back in March, horticulturists noticed changes in the leaves forming in the centre of the plant, indicating the first signs it was getting ready to flower. While growth slowed from around 0.5m per week to 0.5m over two months, this will likely speed back up towards the end of August.

For how long will it stay in flower? 

The flower spike emerges from a rosette of thick succulent leaves with sharp hooks on the margins and a rigid terminal spine. The flower spike branches as it rises with yellow flowers at the ends, resembling a giant candelabra.  
 
Once the plant flowers, it is likely to stay in flower for two or three months before dying.  

What will happen after it dies? 

The Giant Agave is monocarpic, meaning that after it flowers, it will die. However, Agave can produce offspring from the mother plant (known as “pups”) if pollinated. As the Giant Agave has both male and female components, they can self-pollinate, producing pups that are genetically identical to the original plant. They can also be pollinated by birds or moths, which would create non genetically identical pups.  

This plant produced one pup towards the back, and so when the mother plant dies, we will likely plant the pup in this same spot. 

We will continue to post updates on our social media channels, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to be the first to know!  

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