hinkley 7 months ago

Not entirely accurate. If you know the whole lifecycle this strange process can make a hell of a lot more sense.

In the right environment, agave also reproduce vegetatively. They put out offshoots, some of which will produce their own roots.

Once you are closed in on all sides by clone siblings, your next best bet is to try to spread to a new spot. Reproducing sexually gives you a chance to expand to the next few habitable areas.

Then you die, leaving an open space in the middle of all your clones. They fill in and one of them has an opportunity to repeat the process in a few years.

  • moron4hire 7 months ago

    So it's like life replicating Conway's Game of Life.

    • hinkley 7 months ago

      I suppose you could think of it that way.

      My read on this is that desert, rocky terrain, and epiphytic plants find small microbiomes where they can survive. Once they have exploited those resources, once they've 'walked' looking for other spots very close by, they can't just move a couple feet away. They have to fly, and fly far, or die trying.

dghughes 7 months ago

A hothouse in Halifax, Nova Scotia had an agave that bolted so fast they had to remove it from the building. I think it grew six inches per day, that just as interesting that a plant that big can grow that fast.


  • jacquesm 7 months ago

    Plants can grow very fast as long as the part that's growing has not yet turned to wood. Look at grapes to see how fast it can go.

    • existencebox 7 months ago

      Cute anecdote:

      I'm positively blown away by the grapes we planted last year. We had accidentally left a hole in our bird netting and a deer got in and stripped both vines bare, as well as breaking many of the core tendrils. Swore they were going to die; within a month they had doubled their previous size, put out an entirely new and more vigorous crop of leaves, and then proceeded to produce two entire bunches of Riesling. (on year ~1.5 after planting).

      As someone who kills most everything I put in the ground, so much love for the robustness of grapes; they probably put out at least a few inches of vine a day even at this point.

      • djrogers 7 months ago

        You really should go check out a vineyard in November/December. It's absolutely shocking how much of the growth is removed - virtually 100% of it - each year. And every year in late winter/early spring the first bud breaks, and for the next several month you can't even fathom how much they grow.

  • athenot 7 months ago

    Here in the South, Kudzu is a vine that will grow about a foot a day, and engulf trees (and abandoned houses).


    • rm_-rf_slash 7 months ago

      >Kudzu was introduced from Japan into the United States at the Japanese pavilion in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.


      >During World War II, kudzu was introduced to Vanuatu and Fiji by United States Armed Forces to serve as camouflage for equipment and has become a major weed

      The irony.

    • mikec3010 7 months ago

      Kudzu was also the name of one of the first hardware detection scripts for early Linux distros

  • toomanybeersies 7 months ago

    Asparagus, which as we've learned from the article is related to agave, grows to edible length daily.

AceJohnny2 7 months ago

This was a fun and interesting read. I wanted more like this, but I missed the part where The Awl stopped publication early this year:



  • bhauer 7 months ago

    I knew I had made a good decision to read this when I got to the line, "Mayahuel was not a cactus either." I wonder where this Frank Smith is writing now.

  • peterwwillis 7 months ago

    At least the writers got to have a little fun before they left, with sentences such as "like a fluffle of bunniculas had an agave hoedown"

  • draw_down 7 months ago

    It was a great little blog for a while. Then it wasn't, then it died. Still, I found out about some really great writers from there. (Maria Bustillos, Natasha Vargas-Cooper among them.)

  • Camillo 7 months ago

    I had the opposite reaction to the writing quality on display, and therefore to the magazine's fate.

code_duck 7 months ago

The appearance is surprising, but familiar if you’ve seen a yucca flower: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Yucca_gl... or especially the New Mexico version http://www.americansouthwest.net/plants/agavoideae/yucca-ela... (it’s the New Mexico State flower)

It’s also similar to what many grasses do. I suppose they’re all related to asparagus.

  • hinkley 7 months ago

    There's a yearly ritual on /r/whatisthisplant of misidentifying blue agave as yucca and vice versa.

  • flatline 7 months ago

    Fascinating - I live in NM and have seen both the yucca blossoms but also what appear to be the same thing as those agave spears. I had assumed they were all yucca around these parts as the plants that give off the tall spear blossoms are smaller than the agave I’ve seen in Mexico and SoCal, but I’m thinking they are just another agave variety.

    • dmckeon 7 months ago
      • code_duck 7 months ago

        Great, I’ve been wondering what the shorter ones are. They look like the tall yuccas, but have thinner spines and never seem to get taller. Apparently they are Yucca baccata.

        Also it’s interesting to identify the various types of spiny grass.

      • flatline 7 months ago

        Thanks - I’m thinking of those agave at the bottom with the Black tips. Lots of cool plants in the desert!

njarboe 7 months ago

The Agave must build up a large store of starch over many years to be able to grow this reproductive organ so quickly. It is this large starchy part of the plant that is harvested in the mature Agave plant to make tequila.

disqard 7 months ago

Did anyone else notice the favicon (shown on one's browser tab) for this link? IMO it beautifully depicts the subject of this post. I did a double-take before realizing that it was an awl :)

40four 7 months ago

Fun article! I love asparagus & tequila. Never would have imagined agave was in the same family of plants!

  • taejo 7 months ago

    The monocots are a huge clade, making up 23% of all angiosperm (flowering plant) species. Asparagus and agave are related to each other just as much as they are to grasses and bananas. It's like saying snakes and humans are related to each other. Usually when we say two plants are related we mean something like they're in the same family.

gcb0 7 months ago

so, how does it taste?

roach374 7 months ago

"Asparagus Death Fetish" was the name of my band in high school.