Tuesday, July 7, 2009

False Aloe

This neat plant now blooming at Blue Jay Barrens is False Aloe, Agave virginica. Many texts now prefer the name Manfreda virginica, but my reference remains Gleason and Cronquist and they use Agave. That suits me since I prefer the name Agave. This photo shows the bloom. Those white stick-like structures are the anthers.

A cluster of flowers. The little white three-parted structure is the stigma.

The flower stalks can exceed three feet tall, but they are very hard to spot among the other prairie vegetation.

It becomes easier to see when the seed pods fully develop. I’ve read that the flower is pollinated by night flying insects. Blooming progresses from the lowest part of the stalk and moves slowly upward. Some years you’ll notice a gap of unfertilized flowers, which I presume means the pollinator was not active through the entire blooming season.

The best way to locate this plant is to look for the basal rosette of leaves in either the spring or the fall. The leaves are a somewhat demure version of the Yucca. In the spring, the leaves stand up and display a sharp looking point. Leaves in the fall appear to be more like limp leather.

These are some seedlings growing in a pot of nice soil. The seeds were sown in February and the plants are developing rapidly. These plants normally grow in dry shallow soil. Under normal conditions it would take a plant a couple of years to gain the size of these new seedlings. Growing wild plants in controlled conditions can give you a lot of insight into how the plant develops, but you have to remember that things can be much different in the wild.

The locals are always curious about what I’m up to. One of these standing nearby can certainly draw away the deer flies.

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