Ben and Lillie Hussey of Rockingham planted a century plant in their front yard 35 years ago, but know they won’t witness the rare blooming in their lifetime. Native to Mexico and often seen at the beach, Agave Americana are used ornamentally. Hardy to most North Carolina weather and highly insect resistant, this member of the cactus family looks like it was left over from prehistoric times.
The century plant has leaves that are three to four feet long, half a foot wide, and about four inches thick. The leaves are thick and waxy which allows them to be heat resistant. Short, sharp points line the edge of the leaves like teeth, and the end has a sharp, pointy tip that can pierce to the bone. The plant is said to live for about a century, flowering very rarely in its lifespan.
The plant propagates by offshoots that appear near the bottom where the plant comes out of the ground. The Husseys have received many inquiries about the plant that has grown to be massive.
“I couldn’t tell you how many times people have knocked on our door and asked about it. I’ve given away so many of those baby plants,” says Lillie.
Lillie, 74, and her husband, 77, acknowledge that they are likely not to ever see the plant in bloom in their lifetime. When in bloom, the stems of the flowers reach into the sky, around 26 feet high. Hussey has been an avid gardener all his life, and takes good care of the plant.
“Just about the only thing that affects it is the frost,” he says. He trims the plant when the edges of the leaves get too long, too sharp, or damaged by the winter frost.
He said he even considered trying to move the plant, but it has become too large and too cumbersome to transport.
“It’s at least eight feet tall,” says Lillie. She has a second and much smaller plant nearby, as well.
The century plants leaves have a dense fiber inside that in the past has been used to make rope. The plant was one of the first to be described by Carl Linnaeus, father of taxonomy.
Lillie and Ben Hussey live at 210 Cartledge Creek Road in Rockingham.
Dawn Kurry can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 997-3111 ext. 15.