Thursday, March 12, 2020

Beginning of the end: Agave 'Mad Cow' starting to bloom

In the olden days, agaves were called “century plants” because people thought it would take a hundred years for them to flower. That's not quite the case, seeing how most agave species flower within 5 to 20 years.

Yet the flowering of an agave is still a bit of an event—one that's as bitter as it's sweet. Agaves have a flair for drama and produce impressive flower stalks. They might be 4 feet tall in a dwarf species like Agave × arizonica, or 25 feet in a giant like Agave salmiana. As a matter of fact, agaves put everything they've got into this undertaking, to the point where's simply nothing left when all is said and done. That's why most agave species die after they've finished flowering.

Agave 'Mad Cow', a hybrid between Agave bovicornuta (the cow's horn agave) and Agave colorata

I may look dorkily cheerful in this photo—it truly is exciting to see such a big flower stalk emerge—but I feel wistful at the same time.

The agave in these photos is called 'Mad Cow'. It's a hybrid between Agave bovicornuta (the cow's horn agave) and Agave colorata. It has the size and teeth from Agave bovicornuta and the color from Agave colorata. I wonder how tall the flower stalk will get? Agave bovicornuta inflorescences can be as tall as 20+ feet; Agave colorata's are more modest at 10+ feet.


I got my 'Mad Cow' from Greg Starr in December 2013 so I've had it just over six years.

Agave 'Mad Cow' in December 2013 (foreground). It was a lot greener then.

This hybrid was fairly available at the time I got mine, but it seems to have disappeared since then. That's a real shame. Maybe I'll find a pup or two under my mother plant—Agave bovicornuta is always solitary, but the most commonly seen form of Agave colorata does offset.

Here's a photo of what my 'Mad Cow' looked like in its glory days:

Summer 2016

I'll post updates as the flower stalk continue to get taller.


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8 comments:

  1. Wow, did it ever put on a lot of growth. It will be interesting to see what the flower spike looks like. Will it have small offsets or seeds on the spike?

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    1. Hopefully it will set seed although it's impossible to know whether seeds will be viable.

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  2. Pretty Agave. Interesting that it started out so green bout turned blue/silver. Many Agaves going up here, 6 blue glows, at least 3 joe hoaks, the mitis x 'Nova'. The forest of stalks is rather cool.

    Soft gentle rain here this morning, the kind that soaks into the soil. Looks like a good storm will hit NorCal and the sierras early next week, enjoy!!

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    1. It did change color quite a bit. I noticed that as I was looking different photos.

      With so many agaves flowering in your garden, you'll be inunandated with babies! You might see some interesting variegation in 'Joe Hoak' bulbils.

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  3. I still live in fear that my 'Blue Glows', most purchased at the same size during the same year (when that variety could still be found in small pots at a reasonable price), flower at once. I hope you get some pups - my own Agave colorata are sneaky puppers, sending their offspring out a good foot or two away.

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    1. Hoping your 'Blue Glow' will a) take their sweet time blooming, and b) don't flower all at the same time....

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  4. It's just amazing to me that it grew that large in only 6 years.

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    1. My "real" Agave bovicornuta has been a reasonably fast grower, too.

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