century plant and lady

Betty McGuffie stands next to her Century plant, which she thought was a cactus until it started to grow.

Betty McGuffie walked by the cactus her mother planted in the front yard of her Richey Street home many times, not thinking much of it.

Well, the cactus decided it wanted some attention. A recent growth explosion has raised the cactus’ stature and its profile.

“I didn’t notice (it was growing) until on Mother’s Day, when my nephew came by to check on me,” McGuffie said. “He said, ‘What is growing in that plant?’ ‘’

“I passed by it every day and never noticed. I thought it was a cactus.”

Her cactus turned out to be a Century plant (Agave Americana), also called an agave, agave cactus, aloe, American agave, American aloe and maguey.

And it may reach 20 feet in height.

“It seems like it is growing and leaning. I told my neighbor I hope with the wind blowing, it doesn’t fall,” McGuffie said.

Century plants generally take between 8 and 30 years to flower, according to the horticulture page of the University of Florida website.

The plant doesn’t take 100 years to bloom, the website said.

“I really can’t tell you how old it is,” McGuffie said. “My mother lived here. This is her house. She died in 2012 and I have been her since.”

McGuffie said she thinks it was planted in 1963 or 1964 and her mother thought it was an aloe vera.

“The stem grew and grew” until it was nearly as high as the telephone lines, she said. “I read it is supposed to bloom. I got pictures of the buds. The flowers come out. When it blooms, I don’t know.”

Once the plant reaches maturity, a central stem can grow up to 20 feet tall, the website said.

Pale yellow or white blossoms appear atop a branched flower spire during the summer. Most Century plants die after they flower.

The leaves are large, reaching up to 6 feet long and 10 inches wide, the website said. The spread of the mature plant is up to 12 feet.

McGuffie said she has been taking photos of the Century plant as it began growing to document the progress.