Wichita State century plant ready to bloom

06/29/2013 12:00 AM

06/29/2013 7:02 AM

A plant that’s been living in a Wichita State University greenhouse for 36 years has been moved front and center to the Fairmount entrance garden of the campus, because it has decided to bloom.

The plant is a century plant, a type of agave that can’t survive our winters outdoors. Every now and then, century plants make the news when they send out a flower stalk. A bloom generally marks the end of the plants. A myth surrounding them is that it takes a century for them to bloom, extension agent Bob Neier said. But it is true that flowering portends the death of the plants, he said.

WSU’s plant was moved outside so that the public could watch the flowering, said Kari Ossman, who manages the greenhouses at Wichita State. She said that the flower stalk was detected June 19, and it seems to be growing 10 to 12 inches a day. She said it was her understanding that the stalk could reach 15 feet. The plant, which was a gift to the university, is 7 feet tall, Ossman said.

The century plant sits at the apex of the Fairmount entrance garden off 17th Street east of Hillside. It fits in well with the tropical feel of the garden, where the “Millipede” sculpture lives, in the circle drive in front of the Ulrich Museum of Art.

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