By Published: Nov. 6, 2023

agave plant at CUIn the mid-1990s, longtime CU faculty member Allan Taylor (IntlAf’53; MAnth’04) planted three agave plants outside of the ecology and evolutionary biology department’s greenhouse on CU Boulder's East Campus just off 30th Street.

In May 2023, less than one year after Taylor died, two of the plants bloomed for the first and only time. By the end of July, stalks from the plants towered as tall as 15 feet and sprouted bright yellow flowers. 

The agave plants — which are sometimes called “century plants” because of their long life cycles — attracted more than 1,500 visitors from as far as Colorado Springs and Steamboat Springs during the several weeks the blooms were visible, said greenhouse director John Clark. 

“Seeing a plant that has been maturing for decades to flower is exciting to witness,” said Clark, who has held his position at CU for four years. “This is something that doesn’t happen often in Colorado, especially Boulder. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, both for the plant and the observer.”

Clark climbed on a ladder three times to pollinate each agave. His team also harvested seeds from the plants and germinated them in the greenhouse this fall.

As for the agave plants themselves, they will die now that they've bloomed, but their offshoots will replace the original plants and bring joy to the next wave of visitors — some 30 years from now.

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Photo courtesy Mason Marino (top), Janice Harvey