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30-Year-Old Plant Wakes Up for Wichita

Nicollette Engels

Wichita State University’s three-decade-old agave plant is due to bloom within the next couple of weeks. After a lifetime in a campus greenhouse, the plant has been moved to the university’s Fairmount Street entrance south of the Ulrich Museum of Art.

The agave, also known as a century plant, can only bloom once in a lifetime, making this a rare botanical occurrence. The average century plant blooms in 10 to 30 years, and after it blooms it will die.

The plant sent out a flower stalk June 19 and has grown several inches per day since.

Floral supervisor Kari Ossman manages the greenhouses at WSU and has been primary caretaker of the plant for the past 26 years.  Ossman believes the plant to be an agave Americana, but won’t be sure until it blooms.

Due to its ever increasing size, the plant had to be moved from its original greenhouse next to McKinley Hall to a larger greenhouse at the WSU Physical Plant where it has spent the past decade. Ossman said only since the appearance of the flower stalk did she decide to plant the agave on campus.

“Since it was blooming, I felt like we had no choice but to display it," said Ossman. "It’s a once in a lifetime situation."

Over the next couple of weeks curious Wichitans can witness the blooming of the century plant. It is expected to reach up to 15 feet. 

“I just hope it blooms for awhile so that our community can have an opportunity to go by and see it,” Ossman said.