Once in 100 Years

The Century Plant will be blooming soon, a once-in-a-lifetime event

Like a passing comet or a full eclipse, seeing the full bloom of a Century Plant is often an experience that comes only once in a lifetime, if at all. In fact, it's a sight that has never been seen in the Chicago area. Ever.

But that could change soon.

The Agave Americana, better known as the Century Plant, has been growing quietly and humbly at the Washington Park Greenhouse (1615 E 142nd St) for more than 50 years. But recently, it has experienced a growth spurt, and it now stands 8 feet tall (2.4 m).

And it won't be stopping there.

Employees at the greenhouse will have to remove a panel of the greenhouse ceiling in order to make room for the plant, which will ultimately grow to a height of 30 feet (9.1 m) before showing off its big yellow flowers.

As you might have guessed, the Century Plant is so named because it was believed the plant bloomed once every 100 years. Experts say it's closer to 60 years, but that still makes it a rare sight to behold.

Fran Nowacki, the city's director of recreation, estimates that the plant should be in full bloom just in time for the greenhouse's annual flower show, scheduled for April 6 and 7.

"We're very excited about the century plant," Parks Superintendent Ken Monroe said, reports The Times of Northwest Indiana.  "We welcome everybody to come by and see it."

The Washington Park Greenhouse is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. For more information, call 219-391-8476.

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and "between blogs" blogger, sings 'Outside my house is a cactus plant they call the century tree...'

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