‘It’s a sight to see’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Features Editor

The towering plant in Max Thrash’s yard is a sight for sore eyes.

It’s a Century Plant and it has "sprouted" and promises to bloom long before it’s time – about 86

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years, to be exact.

Thrash thought he would never live long enough to see his Century Plant bloom, but "the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise," Thrash will get to see a mass of yellow flowers in just a couple of weeks or sooner.

"Just don’t know," he said, looking up at the 35-foot plant gently swaying in the summer breeze. "If if blooms as fast as it grew, it could bloom before I get back in the house. But, looks like to me it could be a week or more."

The Century Plant

was a gift from friends around 1988.

"The plant was about four or five inches tall when I got it," Thrash said. "I stuck it out and left it alone. I didn’t know what it would do. It’s an agave plant and it’s originally from Mexico but it grows in California and Texas. I thought it would look like a regular cactus that you see in the desert."

And, for a while it did.

Then around April, Thrash noticed a stalk sprouting up from the thick basal rosette of long, gray-green leaves.

"At first, it kind of inched up then, all of a sudden, it started growing like wild fire," he said. "You could almost see it growing. It was that fast."

Every day, Thrash would be amazed at how high the plant was growing, probably just as amazed as Jack was at the beanstalk he grew from magic beans.

"The stalk has got spikes on it an it was something to watch it grow," Thrash said. "When it got way up yonder, it started putting out limbs. Now, it’s got about 20 limbs and they’ve got blooms on them. They’re in clusters and I’ve read that the flowers will be yellow in in big clusters. It should be a real sight when all of them bloom."

Thrash said his grandson Chris Rhodes researched the plant on the Internet and learned that the Century Plant provided Native Americans with a source of soap, food, fiber, medicine and weapons.

The leaves of the plant are 10 to 18 inches long with

long, sharp spines and shorter spines along the edges, therefore, they’re about as cuddly as a porcupine.

"No, you don’t want to get too close to them," Thrash said, laughing. "We also found out that it takes a long time for a Century Plant to bloom, but not a hundred years."

The plant will usually flower June through August and then, Thrash said, the stalk will just disintegrate.

"It will just cave in and go to dust," he said. "That’s going to be something to see, too."

Thrash learned something else about the Century Plant that he found interesting.

"In Mexico, they use it to make tequila," he said. "They even have a picture of the plant on some of the bottles. That’s what I’m told."

Thrash laughingly said he has no plans to try

to squeeze any tequila out of his plant.

"I’m just going to watch it bloom and then watch it go to dust," he said, with a smile. "I’ll be glad for anybody who wants to see it to come on out. It’s a sight to see."