Friday, October 18, 2019

Colossal Carleton Blossom Astounds Biologists

By Lisa Gregoire
Photos by Fangliang Xu

About two months ago, when something started growing out of a knee-high, starburst-shaped succulent in a Carleton University greenhouse, plant guru Ed Bruggink noticed right away and began investigating.

What he discovered was extraordinary.

“We looked at photos online and said, whoa, we got something really special here,” Bruggink said.

At first, the bloom resembled a huge asparagus—it’s actually a member of the asparagaceae family, but over time, the top third of the woody stalk developed a brush of delicate yellow flowers which started opening Oct. 11.

Sadly, the agave bloom means it’s about to die and already the bottom part of the plant is turning brown as energy channels into the roughly three-metre-high blossom. As the plant reaches its end of life, the colossal blossom will bend over, hit the ground and disperse its seeds. Bruggink plans to harvest the seeds and hopefully grow new plants.

“It’s a beautiful finale, a beautiful demise. Amazing too, that it’s putting so much effort into surviving, continuing on. I admire that,” he said.

Bruggink, a horticulturalist who has managed the Department of Biology’s greenhouses for 38 years, was delighted to be a witness to this unusual, once-in-a-lifetime event, especially since it coincided with the 20th anniversary of the university’s Butterfly Show which Bruggink launched and runs annually.

“It’s almost like it waited until the (anniversary) to do this for us,” Bruggink said during a recent visit to the Nesbitt Building’s display greenhouse.

“That’s what people were saying.”

Sadly, the agave bloom means it’s about to die and already the bottom part of the plant is turning brown as energy channels into the roughly three-metre-high blossom. As the plant reaches its end of life, the colossal blossom will bend over, hit the ground and disperse its seeds. Bruggink plans to harvest the seeds and hopefully grow new plants.

Read the full story on the Carleton Newsroom. 

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