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Why is it called a century plant?

Here we are, starting the 100 day count down to the end of my 366 day doodle year! I must say I'm excited. Though I have grown and stayed committed to painting every day, I'm really ready to be finished with the project and in a place where I don't feel the pressure and stress to complete a painting every day before midnight. To mark this 100 day count down, I figured I'd find out if century plants are actually named that way because of something to do with 100 years.


A century plant is any one of several species of Agave in the asparagus family (Asparagaceae). The name is commonly applied to Agave Americana, which is grown as an ornamental in many places and is a source of the fiber maguey and of “agave nectar”, used as a sweetener. Despite their common name, most century plants do not live longer than 30 years; each rosette of leaves usually dies after their once-in-a-lifetime flowering, though clonal pups at the base may persist.


This plant is called the century plant, because it takes a long time to flower, thought only once every 100 years; however, this is misleading as it usually flowers once, after 20-30 years of storing enormous food reserves in its leaves, and then dies. There have been plants which will survive and flower again, but this is rare.


Originally from Mexico, the agave now grows across the world in similar growth conditions: a sunny and dry climate, and well-drained soil. Fibers can be extracted from the leaves of this plant and used for rope, matting and coarse cloth.


Drinks are made by cutting off the flower head and collecting the rising sap - as much as 1000 liters per plant! The sap is then fermented into a drink called pulque, and can then be distilled to make the spirit mescal (a related plant, the blue agave, is used to produce tequila). Juice from the core of the plant is used to produce agave nectar - a sweetener often used in food and drinks as a substitute for sugar or honey.




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