How Often Does a Century Plant Bloom?
In the case of the century plant, it’s name is actually misnomer. Contrary to popular belief, a century plant does not bloom every 100 years. Part of the agave family, a century plant typically lives 10 to 30 years, flowering only once at the end of its life. Other interesting facts include:
- Native Americans used the century plant for food, soap, medicine and weapons.
- The sap of a century plant can be used as a diuretic or laxative.
- The stalk and heart of the plant can be roasted and eaten. They have a sweet yet acquired taste.
- If the flower stem is cut before it flowers, a sweet liquid called aguamiel, or honey water, gathers in the heart of the plant. It can be fermented to produce an alcoholic drink called pulque. Pulque is usually considered a regional specialty in Mexico, yet it is also used to produce another alcoholic drink called mezcal.
- While the century plant comes from the agave family, it is not used to create tequila, as other plants in the family are.
- The leaves of a century plant yield fibers called pita, which can be used to make rope and matting. The leaves are also used to embroider leather, a technique known as piteado.
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It is actually illegal to use any plant other than the Blue Agave to manufacture Tequila, and it can only be called “Tequila” if it comes from a registered distillery in the Tequila, a town in the Mexican state of Jalisco, near Guadalajara. If it is distilled outside the Tequilla area, it’s called “Maguey”. Pulque is (as you mentioned) fermented, not distilled.
The maguey lariat (sometimes referred to as a “grass rope”) is a stiff, smooth rope that holds a loop very well, so it’s often used by trick ropers. It’s also good for those who are learning to rope. The maguey is often considerably longer than leather reatas, cotton lariats, or other catch ropes. Because of its ability to hold its shape and not collapse, it makes a catch from a longer distance possible. It’s also good for situations where the animal needs to step into the loop, such as team roping. Because it stiffens when it’s wet, cowboys, particularly buckaroos, prefer to use it only where it is dry.
Great facts Sara! Thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome. 🙂
Will the plant die after it blooms???
Yes! It expends so much energy blooming that is dies.
my century plant stalk bloomed already and is now blooming again
is this normal or rare?
The Century plant always dies as soon as it blooms. In fact, I believe all Agave plants do. The Century plant does send out underground shoots that produce dozens, sometimes hundreds, of baby plants that grow and eventually bloom at the base of the “mother” plant. It’s possible you’re seeing one of those offshoots blooming now. If so, it, too, will die as soon as it finishes blooming. There are also several Aloe plants that resemble the Century plant in size, shape, and color, and they bloom many times. It’s possible you have an Aloe instead of an Agave. Take a photo of the whole plant, a leaf or 2, and some of the blooms, and take or send it to a desert botanical garden or nursery that specialized in desert plants. They should be able to tell you what you actually have.
Afterthought: It’s also possible you have a yucca. Yuccas are the right general appearance and put up a bloom stalk similar to the Century plant. They can bloom many times, for years.
Can the stalk be dried for use in sculpting or other artisan products?