A Moment of Science

Monocarpic Plants

The agave plant is a monocarpic, meaning it flowers just once, and then it dies. Learn more on this Moment of Science.

Century Plant agave in bloom

Photo: Jon Wiley (flickr)

Agaves, like this Century Plant, can grow as high as thirty feet before flowering

The agave plant is a succulent, meaning it has a number of characteristics that help it survive hot, dry desert climates. The plant is also a monocarpic, meaning it flowers just once, and then it dies.

The cool thing about agaves is that when they do finally flower, which may take many years, they’re not kidding around. When it’s ready, a thick stem or mast will shoot up from the center of the rosette shaped plant in a matter of days, and grow to a staggering height.

On some agaves, the mast may grow to about 6 to 8 feet. The most spectacular of the agaves is Agave Americana, otherwise known as the Century Plant. Its mast can grow as high as thirty feet before flowering.

A chemical change in the agave causes it to redirect all of its resources towards the creation of its fruits and seeds. There’s nothing left for the rest of the plant. Of course, if all goes well with its spectacular flowering, life will continue on.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science