Once-in-a-lifetime bloom expected this month for Colorado agave plant – The Denver Post

A 16-year mission undertaken by one Berthoud agave plant will soon come to an end, as the high-desert succulent blooms extravagantly before withering and dying.

Parry’s agave is also known as the “Century Plant” for its unique life cycle, where it can grow as a small bush for decades before expending its life’s energy on a towering vertical stalk that yields hundreds of bright yellow flowers.

The Berthoud specimen is located in the public Conservation Gardens at Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla said employees first noticed that the plant was sending up a stalk earlier this year.

Today, the agave looms roughly 20 feet over neighboring plants.

“For us, it’s beautiful, but obviously they’re not doing it for the beauty,” Stahla said. “It’s the most efficient way for it to propagate its species for decades to come.”

Several branches with flower buds are currently visible on the agave’s stalk, and Stahla said the branches and buds will continue to multiply before the plant blooms at some point in the coming weeks.

It is expected to remain in bloom for about a month before it dies.

Parry’s agave is included in the district’s display of yuccas and other drought-resistant plants that locals could include in a xeriscaped front- or backyard.

“It’s hardy,” Stahla said. “It gets down below zero every year, but it’s a high-desert plant, and it’s adapted to it.” (He noted that ecologists consider Berthoud and the surrounding area to be semi-arid shortgrass prairie rather than high desert.)

The plant is named for Charles Christopher Parry — a 19th-century botanist and mountaineer who was its European discoverer. Several other North American plants, such as the Parry pinyon and Parry’s penstemon, have also been named in his honor.

Parry’s agave is native to the southwestern United States. The agave on Northern Water’s Berthoud campus was planted in 2004, shortly after the district’s office was built in 2003.

Stahla said interested members of the public can visit the Conservation Gardens at 220 Water Ave. any time between sunrise and sunset as long as they observe social distancing rules.

“It’s pretty amazing that this plant after decades of growing decides to put up this massive shoot as its final hurrah,” he said.

“It’s been biding its time for decades, storing energy for this one final explosion.”

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