Unique Agave Plant Blooms at the National Zoo

June 28, 2010
News Release

Standing an impressive 12 feet tall with vibrant yellow flowers at its tip, the agave plant is in bloom at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. The plant, whose Latin name is Agave parryi, has been at the Zoo for many years, but the exact age of the plant is unknown. An agave plant blooms once in its lifetime, usually between 10 to 25 years of age. The species is pollinated by hummingbirds and can blossom for a significant period of time, depending on the weather and pollinators. Once the flowering period has ended, the plant dies; however, it will set off pups in order for the species to survive.

Another species of agave, known as “the century plant,” is believed to take up to 100 years to bloom. The nectar from agave plants, a sweet sticky juice similar to honey, is sometimes used as a sweetener. Blue agave plant nectar, when fermented, makes tequila. Agave plants originate in Mexico but can be found throughout the southern region of the United States. Visitors to the Zoo can view the unique plant in the cactus garden, located between the Small Mammal House and the Great Ape House.

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