Visitors to Arcosanti over the last several weeks have been treated to one of the more unique horticultural sights that the Southwest has to offer—a blooming agave americana next to the visitors parking path.

Agave americana, or the Century Plant as they are commonly known, are native to both Arizona and Texas in the United States and prolific throughout northern Mexico. The name is taken from the plant’s tendency to bloom only once at the end of it’s lifecycle which typically spans ten to thirty years depending on the local climate.

Aesthetics aren’t the only thing that the agave has going for it; they are used for distilling fermented beverages in the form of both mezcal and tequila, plus a simple regional spirit called pulque. The leaves themselves contain fibers called pita useful for rope, matting, or coarse cloth.

The stalk itself can reach heights of up to twenty-four feet and is crowned with yellow blossoms for a brief period of time, the seeds of which will eventually find footing somewhere else on our mesa where they will begin the whole process anew.

(photos by Shannon Mackenzie, text by Tim Bell)

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