|Agave blooms (century plant)
In March, 2009 two agave plants on our property in southeastern Arizona sent up stalks indicating they were going to bloom. This offered a great opportunity to follow the development of the flowers and seeds and take photographs of the entire process, which took place between mid-March and the end of July. For general information on the agave go here.
As the following photos show, the stalks first came straight up about 30 feet, with triangular, leaf-like patches along the stem. These soon drew away from the stalk revealing a branch forming parallel to the stem. After reaching a couple of feet in length these branches swung downward, forming the familiar chandelier formation on which the flowers appear. The flowers at first are green pods, then open to release pistils and stamens which attract many bees and insects as well as birds.
Here the branches are just emerging from the trunk.
The flower buds have formed, detail below.
At this point the first blooms to open are beginning to dry out. The buds open sequentially upward along the stem with the flowers on the bottom branches being already matured and dried out by the time the flowers on the top open. This occurs over a period of about a month.
Agave plants in full bloom
Here the surviving seed pods are ripening. Many of the potential pods have fallen to the ground prior to this point during wind storms. Given the number of bees present at the plant over the weeks of blooming, it seems unlikely that all the flowers were not pollinated but for some reason many of the blooms do not develop into seeds.
This photo shows a hole made in the stalk by a woodpecker, one of the many birds who came to feast on the swarms of insects attracted to the flowers. Presently one of the agaves has fallen over, but the other is still standing.
Update: October 2009
Cross section of Agave Stalk