Science: Half-Century Plant

Botanists realized again last week that "century plant" is a complete misnomer for the American aloe (Agave americana). In Mexico where it is called the maguey it takes only 15 years or so to store up the energy to bloom. Unblooming, it looks like an ordinary ground-palm: a rosette of long, pointed leaves spreading out from a central core. When its time comes it hastily pokes up a huge flowering stalk, thick as a tree trunk, from 15 to 40 ft. high, tops it with a huge cauliflower sprig with hundreds of little white...

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