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Plants of the Western Slope August 17, 2016

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Photo by Evelyn Horn A Century Plant in bloom in Cedaredge.


Well, I'm back home with a column that just won't wait! I was writing about my shorebird trip to the state of Washington, but the Century Plant at my friend's home in Cedaredge is in bloom -- spectacular! For several weeks, I've been watching the basal rosette (the green part at the bottom of the photo). The leaves looked bright bluish-green and the tips were covered with a dark brown spine. Maybe it will bloom this year? It did!

Of course these plants don't really wait a century to bloom (It just seems so to us!). With plants, some live, bloom and die in one season. We refer to these as "annuals." Other plants live and bloom for several seasons and then die. We call them "perennials." But some live for several years and then bloom once, when the time is right. They're known as "monocarpic" meaning that they have one bloom and then die.

It may come as a surprise that the Green Gentian or Monument Plant in our local mountains has a similar lifestyle. Both of these plants build their resources for years in their roots with a plain looking rosette of leaves. When the plants have enough resources, they send up a flower stalk. In a natural setting, the Century Plant would develop new plants, called "pups," along its large root system.

The flowering stalk is about 15 feet tall (it seems taller to me!). There are many horizontal branches each bearing many bright yellow flowers. As I watch, I see a hummingbird suspending itself for a drink of nectar. Of course many creatures would come to join in the nectar feast: birds such as orioles, all the hummers, and insects of all kinds. Though not a native, the Century Plant is a remembrance of our Nevada days.

My thanks to Linda and Bruce Croft at 1180 SE Deer Creek Drive.

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Evelyn Horn, Plants of the Western Slope
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