Next time you drive along Lawyers Road, pay particular attention to the green stalk that towers more than 15 feet above the corner of Lawyers and Maplewood Lane.
Or plug this address into a GPS and go check it out: 7501 Lawyers Road. The plant is next to Charlotte’s Slavic Pentecostal Church Emanuel.
The plant is not something from “The Day of the Triffids” or “Jurassic World,” though it would fit in nicely with those movie sets; this plant is a century plant, officially an Agave palmeri, planted by a local man named John Johns about 15 years ago.
In the U.S., the century plant is native to Arizona and New Mexico.
Though rumored to bloom only once in 100 years, the Agave palmeri actually produces its bloom in 15 to 20 years.
Johns said the Agave’s tall stalk, which resembles a giant asparagus, should be in full bloom in the next week or so. The blooms will last several weeks; seeds will form, and then the plant will die.
Some varieties of Agave produce “pups,” small plants that grow around the mother plant and continue when the original plant dies, but Johns said there’s no evidence of smaller plants around this one; however, he intends to collect the seeds and hopes to grow more.
Paula Gross, interim director of UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, said Agave palmeri blooms are still few and far between in the Piedmont.
“It’s only been in the past 10 years that people have considered planting them here,” Gross said. “It was thought that they weren’t winter hardy, but now our climate has warmed enough that it’s worth planting.”
“It’s not the rarest thing, but it’s definitely worth celebrating.”
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story for Melinda? Email her at email@example.com.
The Agave palmeri is easily seen from the road, but John and Karen Johns have more than 500 different plants, four ponds and several gardens on their 1 acre of land, mostly enclosed by a fence. Details: www.gardenendeavors.com.