Couple’s shock as exotic plant shoots up 25ft

August 16, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A couple returned from holiday to find a plant in their garden had shot up 25ft in the air – and was towering over their HOUSE.

Green-fingered Heather and Mike Godfrey went away for two-month summer break but came home to find the agave plant looming over their property.

The retired couple, of St Merryn, Cornwall, left their home on June 9 when the plant was nothing more than a clump of leaves in their back garden.

But while they were away the agave burst into life for the first time in 23 years – and the stem soared to a whopping 25ft.

Mike, 80, and Heather, 74, returned from their holiday on Friday to be confronted with the Triffid-like plant soaring over their home.

Experts believe Britain’s unpredictable weather and a series of mild winters may have prompted the Godfreys’ plant to flower.

Heather said: ”When I look out of the top window I can see it on the skyline. While we were away it just came to life.

”We have had many comments from people walking on the footpath behind our house. It is so stunning that I have even forgiven it for being so prickly.

”We used to have it in the greenhouse. I have always hated it and threatened to put weed killer on it on many occasions. Looking at it now I’m glad I didn’t.”

The couple planted the Agave Americano as a cutting in 1987 after becoming fascinated with the species at a horticultural show.

They first bedded it into a plant pot and then moved it into the back garden but for two decades it failed to sprout.

But while they were away the plant burst towards the sky and now towers at around 25ft and is covered at the top with colourful flowers.

The Agave is commonly known as a Century Plant because of the curious life-cycle which sees it flower once after decades of being dormant.

Native to Mexico’s deserts, the plants are now common in the Mediterranean and can take up to 70 years before the spectacular eruption occurs.

Agaves only flower once before the original plant dies and during flowering a tall stem or ‘mast’ grows from the centre of the leaf rosette and bears a large number of short tubular flowers.

A spokesman for the Royal Horticultural Society said the plant may have reacted to a series of mild winters which has protected it from frost.

He said: ”The plants build up their resources over the years and when strong enough shoot up a great big stem. This uses up all its energy and it dies.

”The run of mild winters seems to have effected agaves which is consistent with what we’d expect from climate change.

”Normally they would be happier in hotter climates such as Spain or Portugal but mild winters here are protecting them and allowing them to flourish.”

Agaves are used to make tequila in their native Mexico. The flowers, leaves, the stalks and the sap – which is known as ‘honey water’ – are all edible.

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