Agave in flower

Title Info
Common name Century Plant, Agave
Scientific name Agave
Taxonomic group Agavaceae
Source Dan L. Perlman
Change over time Phenology; Life cycles
Lessons Life Histories
Date 1999
Location Monteverde,Costa Rica,North America
Phenology: Agave in flower, Costa Rica
Related materials: Plant life histories
Compare the agave's life history strategy of growing for decades before reproducing once with the typical weed (grow fast, reproduce quickly, die) with that of the typical tree (grow for a number of years, then reproduce frequently after that). It is striking to see the massive flowering spike covered by hundreds of buzzing bees and flies, as it is impressive to see the mother plant's dead leaves and spike surrounded by dozens or hundreds of agave seedlings in the first year or two after the reproductive event.

Century plant in flower, Costa Rica. Agaves, sometimes known as century plants due to their long lives, exhibit an interesting life history strategy. They live for decades without reproducing, growing large, spiny, and long-lived leaves as seen at the bottom of this image. Then, they grow a single massive flowering spike, put out a huge inflorescence or group of flowers, fruit, and die. Although annual plants typically display this grow-and-reproduce-once strategy, known as semelparity, relatively few long-lived plants are semelparous. In this case, decades of life go into a single reproductive event.