Century plant sprouts to height of telephone pole on 27th Street

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

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RESERVE — Neighbors surrounding E. 27th Street in Reserve were drawn to a curious sight when a plant that had been on the property of the late Reverend Alfred Johnson and Thelma Johnson for many years suddenly sprouted to the height of a telephone pole.

Evangeline Trimble learned the spectacle was a century plant in bloom. While the name would suggest the plant blooms once every 100 years, century plants typically have lifespans of 10 to 30 years. The plant’s life usually ends with a rapid sprouting, propelling to heights of up to 20 feet. Typically found in the arid deserts of the Southwest region and in Mexico, the century plant’s bloom is almost ethereal in nature, resembling a scene from a science fiction movie or a prehistoric era.

The origin of the century plant on 27th Street in Reserve is unknown, but neighbors can confirm it has been moved about four times in the past 25+ years.

Mary Ann Jones once had the century plant on her front porch. She decided to move it after the sharp points of the plant almost caught her granddaughter in the eye as she walked out the front door. It was relocated to Jones’ backyard until her sister, Cynthia Lawrence, said she would take it off her hands. At some point, Lawrence took the plant with her when she moved from 27th Street to Dupont Curve. When she moved back, the plant returned with her. Lawrence has since passed away, but the plant has remained in the front yard.

“In May, my husband started to notice how tall the plant had grown,” Jones said. “I took a picture and started asking questions about it.”

Trimble recalled how the property on 27th Street has been in her family for at least 85 years. She remembers seeing the plant when it resembled a small cactus. She learned of the cultural significance of the century plant just over a week ago, after learning that a Hispanic gentleman pulled up in a car and asked if he could have the plant. While it could not be given away, the interaction led neighbors to learn the century plant was considered sacred in ancient Aztec culture. It has also been represented as a religious symbol of immortality and everlasting life.

“It was about half of its current size when people started noticing it,” Trimble said. “Articles say it’s supposed to die once it blooms, so we are really interested to see what’s going to happen to it.”