Ashhurst century plant approaches last days

00:52, Mar 14 2014
Century plant
SHOOTING HIGH: A previously unremarkdhable succulent-like plant outside the Ashhurst home of Dean Oswalk and Erika Frewin (pictured) surprised them when it started to sprout a thick stem that grew and grew.

A century plant standing sentry at the gate of an Ashhurst home may have unexpectedly grown a stalk metres into the air in a matter of months, but thankfully, the previously unassuming plant was no triffid.

Dean Oswald and his partner Erika Frewin have lived in their Ashhurst home for about 13 years, and when they arrived, the plant was already well established at their front gate.

When it was about half the height it is now, "it looked like a giant asparagus", and then it started to flower, Ms Frewin said.

"It just kept going and going."

A triffid is a fictitious, tall and venomous plant species from John Wyndham's 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids.

The pair hadn't really given it much thought until an American cyclist stopped in and commented on it, while it was still in its "asparagus head" phase, and was much smaller than it is now.


Mr Oswald said it was the cyclist who told them it was a century plant, called such for the long time it takes to flower - usually about the 10-year mark.

Their own research has led them to believe the plant is indeed an Agave americana, also known as a century plant, which shoots up a stem and flowers once in its lifetime, before toppling over and dying.

It was a native of tropical America, and can grow between 4m and 9m tall.

They believe their plant is close to 8m tall.

"It was quite spectacular, every day you would come outside and see another set of flowers opening up," Ms Frewin said.

The plant had already spawned a host of smaller plants around the bottom, and the couple had replanted some of them in other places.

But time is running out for the plant, which is already leaning to one side.

Manawatu Standard