9 August 2017

You can see the magnificent century plant (Agave americana) as soon as you enter the Edvard Anderson Conservatory. It grows up to 15 cm a day and can reach a height of 5-9 meters in our climate. Our century plant started to bloom August 3th.

Agave plants are monocarp: after the rosette has flowered, that rosette dies. (You can already see that the leaves are starting to wither on our plant.) All the side rosettes are alive. Theese can be used to propagate the Agave

Photo: Astrid Fyhr
Photo: Astrid Fyhr

Century plant (Agave americana) facts

  • The name Agave has Greek origin and means the admirable.
  • In nature, the century plant blooms after 7-10 years, in greenhouse it takes a lot longer.
  • In the inflorescence there are 4-5,000 yellowish green blossoms.
  • The century plant grows naturally in Mexico and the southwest of USA.
  • The plant was brought to Europe in the 16th century and quickly became a status symbol in castle parks and botanical gardens.
  • The first time a century plant was flowering in Sweden was 1708, at the Noor castle outside Knivsta.
  • The century plant has become an invasive weed in for example Australia and the Mediterranean area.
  • There are about 300 Agave species in America. 18 of them are grown here in the Edvard Anderson Conservatory.

Syrup and tequila

A full-grown century plant contains large amounts of stored carbohydrates. They are needed to be able to form the vast inflorescence. In Mexico it is common for the plant to be harvested immediately before it is going to blossom. When the Agave's "heart" is baked in high heat, the carbohydrates are converted to sugar. The roasted Agave is crushed, fermented and distilled into alcohol - mezcal. Several Agave species are used for alcohol production, including Agave tequilana that produces tequila.

Agave syrup (agave nectar) is produced by heating the vegetable juice from various agaves. It contains mainly sugars fructose and glucose.

Agave now and in the past. The photo to the left shows the agave in The Edvard Anderson Conservatory the 15th of June. The picture to the right is from the botanic garden in Montpellier 1856.
Agave americana now and in the past. The photo to the left shows the plant in The Edvard Anderson Conservatory the 4th of July. The picture to the right is from the botanic garden in Montpellier 1856.