Some days you walk out into your garden and, bang, there’s something there that knocks your eyes sideways, something you never saw before, something you never even anticipated. I’m talking Jack and The Beanstalk kinda stuff here. Well, my latest surprise went down like this.
Near a spot where the driveway runs into the street, we have a large palo brea tree, and beneath the palo are about a half dozen agave plants with dark tips so sharp it’d make a picador wince. Simple. Agave, palo brea. Hardly ever pay attention to them. They just set out there and grow or whatever it is they do.
Then a few mornings ago, I sensed something strange going on out there. Couldn’t put my eye on it at first. I don’t like messing with agaves, so I avoid eye contact as much as possible. If you put an eye on one, it could mean trouble, like the time a few years back when the mother of all these agave monsters got too big and I tried to remove it. I ended up having to chain it to my pickup and trying to pull it out. Even then I didn’t come close to getting all the root.
But those few mornings ago, I finally worked up nerve enough to take a peek at the agave patch, the patch I wish I’d never cultivated. Staring me in the face was this beanstalk or whatever, I didn’t know then, looking much like asparagus on a high protein diet, seven-feet high and every bit three inches thick, and it was shooting up from the very core of the biggest agave. My first thought was that it was a spear from one of those killer agaves I sometimes dreamt about. No one told me then that the agave’s alias is The Century Plant and puts out a stalk like this once in its lifetime, when ready to commit suicide.
The killer stalk had camouflaged itself in the palo brea. That’s why I guess I didn’t see it right off.
It’s like anything else in life. The more you know about something the less you fear it. I no longer fear the agave. I actually think it’s sad, that all its life it’s saving up energy to produce this one big thrust with some flowers and then die.
Sad, yes, and a little bit heroic.