The century plant outside my flat grew a monstrous stalk this summer. I have since learned this means its days are numbered – which has painted it in a whole new light
There is a great big plant outside the flats where I live that looks bewildered to find itself there. In Mexico, yes; west London, not so much. Its leaves look like the tongues of giant lizards, with prickly edges and nasty spikes at the tips. This summer, out of their ferocious midst, a thick stalk emerged suddenly and grew, almost overnight, to an astonishing height. There was a certain exhibitionist arrogance about this new weapon in its armoury. I admired it, but feared it a little, too.
Enquiries revealed the plant to be Agave americana. This species is commonly known as the century plant, although typically it lives for between 10 and 30 years. I read with great sadness that it sends up the magnificent, branched stalk only the once, as it comes to the end of its life.