Once we joined the Desert Botanical Garden, I figured we should take advantage of the reciprocal membership option, good at botanical gardens throughout the US. Tuscon’s Tohono Chul was on the list and as some of you know, we fell in love with its slice of Sonoran desert plant life.

The variegated plant in the front left is a century plant but don’t get too excited. As the Gardening Solutions website points out:

The plant’s common name is a bit misleading; while many people think it means these plants live for—or bloom after—100 years, it actually matures much faster. Century plants generally take between 8 and 30 years to flower.

Once the plant has reached maturity, a central stem grows up to 20 feet tall. Pale yellow or white blossoms appear atop this branched flower spire during summertime. Most century plants will die after they flower, although the spineless century plant (Agave attenuata) flowers multiple times a year.

Our rental house had one of these which blossomed last year. Eventually the tall, thick stem began to list and had to be cut down and put out for bulk pickup along with the rest of the dying plant. We were underwhelmed. Still looking for something to replace it.

I love Tohono Chul’s large amount of signage for their vast number of desert plants. “Red Spike Ice Plant” is a great name even though ice is unlikely to occur anywhere in its vicinity.

Fire sticks is a perfect name for this plant.

Although the century plant is a type of agave, this agave is probably more easily recognizable as such. There are over 200 types of agave. I must say that this one is pretty impressive. These leaves serve as catchalls for all sort of desert detritus or, every so often, rain. The edges have little sharp protrusions, making them look a bit like saws.

For me there’s nothing quite as attractive as a well-built stone wall but having a planter spot for a cactus elevates this one.

Thus endeth our walk for today. But don’t despair. There will be more.

FOTD 3.8.22

  1. We’ve not seen firestick plants until just recently. They are cool! Now that we are leaving the area, I’m sorry I won’t get to plant one. >grin<

  2. Jet Eliot says:

    A lovely walk with you through the Sonoran desert plants, Janet, thank you. Unique and interesting plants.

  3. Wonderful info and photos!

    • Thanks, Jennifer. It’s a wonderful place with a great variety of plants and places to just relax. Of course better seen when it’s not summer and in the 100’s! 🙂


  4. Around the corner from our old house was I think some sort of Agave that shot up one long stalk and finally it bloomed wonderful white flowers. I think it did bloom once a year after that. I even think somewhere in my archives is an image of it in bloom.

    Over the years I have come to appreciate and enjoy cactus, but I didn’t always.

  5. de Wets Wild says:

    Nice to see a South African featuring in your post, Janet! 😀

  6. Resa says:

    You grabbed some fabulous shots here, Janet. Great that you guys are taking advantage of your membership. It has its rewards!

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