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Monocarpic is not a new word

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The first time I learned of the agave’s orchestrated descent to death, I was disappointed. Who wants to grow something for years to only watch it die?Agave americana

Then I realized how poetic it all was.

The agave, among other species like some terrestrial bromeliads of the genus Puya, and certain yuccas, are all monocarpic. Which means – they grow, they bloom, and they die.

The show is in the flowering. The agave flower stalk can grow up to 40 ft high, blooming thousands of small yellow, white or green flowers. All of which will also produce seeds and propagate via birds, or the wind.

Now, don’t try to cut the magnificent flowering as you will only miss the show. Death of the agave is inevitable and cutting the flower stalk won’t stop it.

8031911-R01-002ABut its not all death and despair. The agave also grows offsets – pups – baby agave. Throughout an agave’s lifespan it will grow numerous offsets to leave behind after its death.

Sound familiar?

Agave attenuata offsetsThe pups or, offsets grow from runners sent out from the base of the parent plant, just below the soil surface. They will live on and continue the monocarpic cycle of its mother plant.

So there you have it, monocarpic may be a new vocabulary addition, but certainly not a new idea. Its safe to say upon learning of the agave’s monocarpic nature, I felt even more connected to plants.

Agave Attenuata