LUMBERTON — The long-awaited blooming of a cactus variety that grows for decades before a flowering stalk emerges has surprised two local gardeners.
Those who grow the Century plant, or Agave americana, never know when the hearty, drought-tolerant cactus will bloom, but it can take up to 25 years, not 100 years as the name implies. So it was unexpected this year when Judy and Brooks Baxley, on East Eighth Street, and William R. Hayes, on Pope’s Crossing Road, saw their cacti producing the flower stalk.
The cactus makes a dramatic effect to the landscape as its stalk towers up to 30 feet in height. The downside to this growth is that the bloom-producing stalk is a signal that the plant is going to die.
“I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t bloom because I didn’t want it to die,” Judy Baxley said.
She doesn’t remember exactly when she planted the cactus, but it was between 15 and 18 years ago. Hayes planted his in 2003.
Not only is Judy Baxley’s older cactus in bloom, one a couple of years younger also is blooming. However, the cactus is prolific and has produced many offshoots over the years. Several of them line the street in front of the Baxley home.
Brooks Baxley said he first noticed the stalk growing in early April, and it started growing about 6 inches a day.
Hayes had a similar experience. He noticed tremendous growth around Easter, which was April 16.
“It just shot up all at once,” he said.
His original plant has produced numerous new plants. Motorists often stop to admire the plant.
But admirers need to be careful. Although the Century plant’s leaves may appear harmless, they live up to the prickly reputation of cacti.
“A catfish thorn hasn’t got nothing on these,” Hayes said, pointing to the sharp tips and edges. “They hurt for days.”
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.