At Nearly 34 Feet Tall, Garfield Park’s Agave Plant is Through the Roof

The Agave americana plant at Garfield Park Conservatory, pictured here on April 27, 2019, measures 33 feet, 6 inches tall as of June 5. It is now growing through the greenhouse roof. (Courtesy Garfield Park Conservatory)The Agave americana plant at Garfield Park Conservatory, pictured here on April 27, 2019, measures 33 feet, 6 inches tall as of June 5. It is now growing through the greenhouse roof. (Courtesy Garfield Park Conservatory)

In the midst of a massive growth spurt that began in late winter, the Agave americana plant at Garfield Park Conservatory has now gone through the roof, literally.

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The plant had been growing gradually for more than 50 years until January, when it climbed to about 7 feet. By Feb. 1, it stood at 10 feet. By Valentine’s Day, the plant was more than 13 feet tall, and by early March it towered nearly 18 feet above the ground.

But as it turns out, the plant was just getting started.

The century plant measured 17 feet, 6 inches tall on March 4, 2019. The century plant measured 17 feet, 6 inches tall on March 4, 2019.

As of Wednesday morning, the plant checked in at a remarkable 33 feet, 6 inches tall, said Marie Stringer, communications manager at Garfield Park Conservatory. Last month, the plant’s stalk surpassed the 25-foot-tall roof of the conservatory’s desert room, and it now towers several feet above the glass dome.

Native to the desert, Agave american plants are sometimes referred to as century plants, based on a belief that it could take 100 years for them to flower.

A measuring tape fastened to Garfield Park Conservatory’s Agave americana plant, also known as a century plant. (Courtesy Garfield Park Conservatory)A measuring tape fastened to Garfield Park Conservatory’s Agave americana plant, also known as a century plant. (Courtesy Garfield Park Conservatory)

In their natural habitat, century plants typically bloom and die after about 30 years. But the plant at Garfield Park Conservatory passed that mark more than two decades ago.

Near the end of a century plant’s life, its inflorescence, or stalk, shoots up to heights that usually measure 25 to 30 feet. The plant then sprouts panicles, or branches, that bloom at the top of the stalk.

Panicles, or branches, extended from the stalk of Garfield Park Conservatory’s Agave americana plant. (Courtesy Garfield Park Conservatory) Panicles, or branches, extended from the stalk of Garfield Park Conservatory’s Agave americana plant. (Courtesy Garfield Park Conservatory)

As of last weekend, the conservatory’s plant featured 10 different panicles extending from the stalk, with an 11th starting to emerge.

Contact Alex Ruppenthal: @arupp aruppenthal@wttw.com | (773) 509-5623


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