Hello, it’s me, the designer Shoichi Maebara.
There are a variety of plants planted in front of our office’s entrance. Among those plants is the Agave Americana, or American aloe that blooms only once in its lifetime. Amazingly, our plant bloomed this year, and I would like to talk about it in this post.
I’ve known of this plant’s existence before it bloomed. I once read in a book that it’s the basic ingredient of tequila, and I knew that we had it in our garden.
It’s been 8 years since I started working at DRAFT, and the plant has always been as tall as myself. But beginning this spring, its middle stem started growing rapidly.
Every time I go to work, I would think, wow, it’s really growing. People at the office started murmuring that it might bloom this year. Wanting to find out more, I learned that it blooms only once it its lifetime, which may last between 30 to 100 years (several theories exist).
It kept growing and growing, until it reached 8 meters and at its end, flowers bloomed. From what I’ve shared with you so far, you’d probably think that the flowers would be showy and majestic, but surprisingly, the flowers were bizarre (laughs). (Well, actually, they were rather splendid.)
The plant’s common name in English is the century flower or the century plant. A similar plant is cultivated in Mexico, and it is the basic ingredient in alcoholic drinks such as pulque and tequila. The plant’s fibers are also used to make rope.
Mr. Miyata instructed me to take photos of the plant and its flowers. I arranged for a crane that goes up to more than 10 meters and took the photos. I also cut several of the stalks, created an exhibition room in the office, installed them there and took more photos.
And I only found out about this after I installed them in the room, but even just one stalk emanated a very strong, sweet scent!
And surprisingly, each stalk was much heavier than I thought! If you bend it a little, a clear, viscous liquid flows out like a shower, which really surprised me. I tasted it, and it was slightly sweet and delicious. The stalks that were already withered weren’t heavy so I think it was the liquid that made them heavy. I also thought that the reason why the flowers stand upright is to prevent the liquid from spilling…probably.
It’s an interesting plant.
I’m sorry I can’t share the pictures that I took so maybe next time, when there’s a chance to do so…(There are also other interesting stories about photographing the plant that I can’t share…so I’m sorry about this too!)
In its native Mexico, there’s a bat that sips the liquid and helps in pollination, but it doesn’t seem to exist in Japan…I wonder what will happen to our plant…(maybe a large insect would take the place of the bat).
I’m going to keep an eye on it.
So many seeds from the flowers have fallen to the ground and are scattered about.
I wonder, maybe the descendants of this plant would flower within the next 100 years.
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