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Once in a Lifetime, Agaves Coming to Bloom at Rawlings Conservatory 

BALTIMORE — The historic Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens is celebrating a truly rare event—the blooming of the Agave americana, Agave americana variegata, Agave lophantha and Agave parviflora in the Conservatory's Desert House. Few are fortunate to ever see these remarkable events as the agaves can live for decades, but once they bloom, the plant will gradually die.

Visitors to the Conservatory know the agaves—they are the imposing plants with large, arching leaves that curl outward as if to embrace you. The Blue Agave (photo, right), already impressive at over 8 feet tall and 13 feet wide, is sending up a flower spike that may reach a height of 25 feet. The spike was first visible around March 22. A pane of glass was removed from the ceiling of the Desert House on April 3 to allow for the stalk’s growth.

In an amazing coincidence, the Variegated Agave (photo, below) began to send up its own shoot on April 28. A centerpiece in the Desert House, its leaves curl and stretch over 12 feet in every direction. Many visitors will note that this is the giant “dancing” plant in the front of the room. Glass has been removed to allow the spike to grow, as well.

Additionally, two species of smaller agaves are developing flower spikes.

In nature, agaves can take up to 30 years to bloom. They have earned the nickname “Century Plants” because they bloom once in their long lifetime. The tall stalk of spectacular flowers signals the end of the plant’s life cycle. However, the species also produces numerous small “pups,” or baby plants. These new offshoots are usually cultivated for future plantings. On May 11, staff member George Cannoles noticed that the Blue Agave pups were also spiking flower stalks—quite an occurrence!

Be sure to visit the agaves at the Conservatory, Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. A $5 donation is suggested. 

Or, check out the Conservatory’s Facebook page for our AGAVE WATCH 2013 as we frequently post pictures of their progress and future events celebrating these spectacular plants.

Opened to the public in 1888, the Conservatory is celebrating its 125th anniversary and features year-round displays of plants from around the world in five distinct exhibit areas: the original 1888 Palm House, the Orchid Room, Mediterranean House, Tropical House and Desert House. 

The Rawlings Conservatory is on the National Register of Historic Places, the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties, and is a Baltimore City landmark.

For more information please call 410-396-0008 or visit www.rawlingsconservatory.org.

The Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Baltimore
Druid Hill Park ● Baltimore, Md. 21217 ● 410.396.0008


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