Rare plant spotted in Bexhill

The plant in Bexhill
The plant in Bexhill
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A rare plant that normally takes years to grow has sprouted up in Bexhill.

Botanist Anthony Hamilton was driving along Cooden Drive in town when he discovered the 20ft flower spike of a century plant, which had suddenly appeared alongside a house.

He said: “I find this very interesting because to have this plant suddenly produce in just a few days a flower spike of more than 20ft is spectacular.”

Mr Hamilton said he knew this plant well from his overseas professional travels studying plants in Mediterranean climates.

He added: “Many Bexhill readers will have seen these on their summer holidays. It is called agave americana or the century plant, named after the perceived time it takes to flower.

“Of course, it doesn’t take 100 years before it flowers but it does take decades. These plants are natives of Mexico and the south-western United States.

“They are prone to destruction by frost in hard winters and it’s only in southern coastal areas in England that they can be grown at all.

“Flowering is quite a different matter. Only in the very mild climate of the ‘Cornish Riviera’ and the Isles of Scilly can you expect this.

“When flowering is due, after a couple of decades of plant growth, the flower spike appears and suddenly it spurts into growth and reaches 20 or more feet in a very few days. It then spreads out with an attractive flower spike.”

Mr Hamilton contacted the Royal Horticultural Society, sending several photographs of the plant.

The society has asked him to publish an article on this because it has no record of agave flowering in the domestic context.

After flowering, the flower spike dies, followed later by the entire plant but not before it has produced numerous offsets around the base.

Agave americana is cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant. It has become naturalised in many regions, including the West Indies, parts of South America, the southern Mediterranean Basin, and parts of Africa, India, China, Thailand, and Australia.

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