After 80 years at the Matthaei Botanical Garden, the University’s American agave plant was cut down before a group of spectators Wednesday morning.

According to Mike Palmer, the garden’s manager of horticulture, the American agave is monocarpic, meaning that after flowering, the plant naturally dies. Most plants grow for 25 to 30 years before flowering. This specific agave grew for 80 years before it flowered over the summer, making it a rarity, Palmer said.

Palmer said after years of slow growth, the plant reached six feet in height and eight feet in width, and it began to show a flower stalk last year.

“We don’t know why it took 80 years, but it started sending up a flower stalk a year ago in April and it was very exciting,” Palmer said. “But also we know what happens when an agave flowers; it eventually dies, so that was kind of sad.”

According to a University press release, University alum Alfred Whiting brought the plant to Ann Arbor from New Mexico in 1934. The plant is native to Mexico and the southwestern United States. It was kept in a pot for 30 years before being moved to the garden in the 1960s.

Palmer said after the stalk became visible last April, the plant began to grow at a rapid rate. At this time, it also became a popular attraction for the garden; last year, visitor traffic increased by 50 percent after the agave bloomed.

“It grows so slow for 80 years, then when it switches over to flowering, the hormones and everything in the plant changes and it begins to send up this unique flower stalk,” Palmer said. “It was shooting up at six inches every 24 hours. It went right up to the glass and then we took the glass off so it could grow above the glass. It’s 28 feet tall.”

Palmer said the American agave is “officially dead,” and is being cut down due to the danger it would pose if it were to fall over.

Though the plant is now dead, Palmer said it will live on in two ways. For one, the Botanical Gardens will reuse its seeds to plant a new agave. Second, the plant’s stalk has been given to a music professor who is planning on making flutes from the material.

Palmer noted the unique nature of the plant and that it differs from the plants people typically interact with in their daily lives.

“This speaks to me about the fragility of the ecosystem and the life that these plants have. I think this plant has given people more to think about,” he said.

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