Saturday, March 14, 2009

Century Plant Seedlings: 99 Years 11 Months to Go

Agave filifera ssp. shidigera seedlings. Can you spot the aphid, which I didn't notice until after I downloaded the photo?

Last fall I wrote about the blooming of the Agave filifera ssp. schidigera plant in the University of Connecticut greenhouses. At the time, I was a little doubtful that I would get any seeds from the plant, since I did not have another individual available with which to cross pollinate it. However, I did attempt to self pollinate some of the flowers. It turns out that I needn't have worried: the Century Plant produced hundreds of fruits, even from flowers that I didn't physically pollinate.

The university's A. filifera didn't seem to be completely self-fertile; most of the seeds were small, white, and didn't germinate. But, each capsule contained a dozen viable, well-formed black seeds, so there was more than enough material to replace the parent plant, now in its terminal decline.

Ripe Agave filifera ssp. shidigera fruits.

I harvested and planted the seeds as soon as the fruits started to dry out and open, about four months after flowering. The seeds were sown in ordinary cactus and succulent mix (2 peat-based potting mix : 2 sand : 1 pumice : 1 Turface, more or less), lightly covered with course sand, placed in a sunny spot and kept moist. The seedlings emerged within a week, and a month or so later, are starting to produce their first foliage leaves.

The seedlings ought to be quite recognizable as little agaves by the end of the summer. It won't literally take 100 years for them to reach flowering size, though it is likely to be decades before the next generation of A. filifera plants blooms at UConn.


Julie said...


cmorse said...

nice update, I've added the link to the accession page...