Friday, June 29, 2012

Agave Cactus Blooming on the Kansas Prairie

This is a very famous plant - an agave cactus in bloom, in case you didn't recognize it. What makes it famous is that it's on the Kansas prairie, specifically at Farley Machine Works in Chase, Kansas. It's located right along Highway 56.

They have added cables to help anchor it. We do have some wind here on the prairie. And it is now about three stories tall.

Until a few months ago, this plant was just the lower, bushy part. They brought it in and out of the sun by rolling it into the machine shop when necessary. It's on a trailer built by the owner's grandson.

The towering stem with blooms is the "flower" part. If you look closely you can see the blooms are different at different levels. The lower ones are starting to dry and the upper ones are not yet bloomed.

The sad part of this story is that it's expected the plant will die once it has bloomed. When we visited on Thursday, a part of it had been found broken on the ground that morning when they arrived at work.

I don't know much about cactus plants, but you can see the leaves seem a little dry at the stem. Maybe it just can't support that bloom for long.

I confess I knew nothing about this, but my friend, Pam, asked if I wanted to go. This would be a time when it's handy to know an extension agent who specializes in horticulture.

She tells me the flower part will die, but the main part of the plant will probably live another year or so and it will make little baby plants - pups, they're called.

In fact, it has already made some. And someone stole them. But, the owners do have one at home as well.

This plant was bought as a Mother's Day present in 1976. These plants are known to live 30-40 years, then bloom, and die. Of course, they're not expected to do that on the Kansas prairie. No one knows what will happen to it, but they're doing their best to keep it alive.

You can see the lean in it, but that's not unexpected considering the height and the wind.

People are coming from all over to see it. The machine shop has put out a guest book to keep track.

I'm glad I have friends who, when we have lunch plans, will ask if I want to go see a three story cactus plant in a neighboring town and eat on the way back! It was an adventure. Thanks, Pam!

You can read the Wichita Eagle article for more info.

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