Word of the Day: Monocarpic
One of the things I love about my ongoing botanical self-education is learning new words, so I thought I’d keep track of the ones I’ve learned in a new “Word of the Day” category. First up is my favorite so far: Monocarpic.
Monocarpic plants bloom once and then die. It’s not that the bloom kills them, it’s just that the plant undergoes a change when blooming, directing all its energy into the bloom and creating seeds and/or offshoots for the next generation. When its done, there’s no energy left and it dies.
I was reminded of this great word when visiting the SFBG succulents and seeing an amazing specimen of Century Plant (Agave americana). These Agaves don’t necessarily live for 100 years, but they do live a long time and can become quite imposing. (They’re also close to my heart because one almost convinced me to burn down my house when I was a kid.)
Here you can see the deceased parent plant. The cut flower stalk was the width of a basketball and probably stretched 25 feet tall. Around it you can see the next generation of plants springing to life.
There are many poetic moments in nature, but there’s something especially beautiful about monocarpic plants. They live their lives and then go out with a bang. They burn out, not fade away. Neil Young would be proud.