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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note of any observations you have made of the world around you.  Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.

Tallahassee, FL - June 11, 2013

Going to be a short bucket today but as there is nothing else out there I 'll post this as a humble offering.

In front of my building on campus we have a flowering Agave americana.  Plants in the genus Agave are famous for two things:  being the source of tequila and as 'century' plants.

The name century plant is an exaggeration as no species lives to be 100 years old.  What they are, in technical terms, are long-lived semelparous organisms.  Semelparity refers to only reproducing once in your life time.  Most semelparous organisms are short-lived (annual plants, many insects).  Living a long life just to reproduce once and die seems a bit odd from a human point of view.  However it works for salmon and it appears to work for Agaves.

Plants in the genus Agave are stemless plants with a rosette of tough, fibrous, spiky leaves.  They are native to arid areas of the New World but some species have naturalized in many other regions.  The smallest species would have rosettes the size of a human fist.  Agave americana, native to Mexico, is one of the largest species.  The rosette of our plant is approximately six feet tall and eight feet in diameter.

The flowers of Agaves are produced in clumps (inflorescences) that come off of a large stalk that grows out of the middle of the rosette.  Once the seeds have set the plant dies.  Small species may live half a dozen or so years before flowering, large species perhaps 30 or 40 years.  In large species the flowering stalk can be the size of a small tree.  Below is a picture of flowering Agave americana in Portugal.

Agave americana flowering
We received an email about the flower on 4/23 and my guess is that the stalk first started growing about a week before that.  Today the stalk is full height (hasn't increased in several weeks) at over 30 feet tall.  The side branches bearing the inflorescences have grown and the flowers are there but they haven't opened yet.

I don't have a camera with me but I will try and post some photos of our plant in a future diary.

I'll be interested to see (if possible) what pollinators it attracts.  Bats are important pollinators in some areas but we have no nectar feeding bats here in north Florida.  Many Agaves in the west have native ranges where no pollinating bats would occur so other animals must also pollinate them.

That's what is going on where I am.  What is going on in your neck of the woods?

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