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Stalk of plant at Halifax Public Gardens could reach 40 feet tall (3 photos)

The Agave americana has started to bloom
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It's not quite Jack and the Beanstalk, but the stem of a plant at the Halifax Public Gardens could grow up to 40 feet tall.

Agave americanas normally bloom after 25 years.

Halifax Regional Municipality horticulture supervisor Heidi Boutilier said it looks like one of their agaves has hit that stage.

Last week staff noticed the plant's leaves started pushing downward, and shortly after a gardener noticed a stalk starting to appear.

"It's in the centre of the plant and it was about a foot high at that point in time when he saw it," explained Boutilier. "What was happening was these leaves were spreading down and open to allow this to emerge out. It's almost like giving birth."

She expects the agave's stalk to get 20 to 40 feet high (6 to 12 metres). 

The nutrients from the mother plant will travel up the stalk -- often called a mast because it's so tall -- then put out branchlets that will flower and produce seeds.

"Then, the mother plant, because it has completely spent itself ... will die." she said.

"The mast will literally collapse ... and that's the plant's own mechanism for its seed dispersal in the natural world."

Because agaves are normally found in arid areas like deserts, this one spends its winters in a greenhouse.

The mast of the plant will grow about six inches a day and Boutilier said it could take three to four weeks for it to flower, however our cooler weather could slow the process.

Mother plants can withstand single digit temperatures, but the blooming process usually waits for warmer weather.

"We had to rush it out of here, because she wasn't waiting on us," she said. "The stalk was hitting the pipes of the roof line. That's why there's a bit of a twist in it."

The agave is now out in the Halifax Public Gardens and the public is invited to come out and see it for themselves.

From the main gate, look for the second yellow bridge and you'll find the plant located right beside it. 

For a map, check the photo gallery at the top of the story.




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