Plant at Miami University’s Conservatory on the Hamilton campus prepares to bloom

This plant has been living quietly in Hamilton for 14 years. Now it’s about to bloom for the first and only time.

And then, it will die.

Those familiar with the agave plant are looking forward to the flowering, which is an agave plant’s one and only flourish of its life.

“The plants are ‘monocarpic,’ meaning they bloom once and die,” said Brian Grubb, manager of the Conservatory on the campus, which houses more than 1,000 species of plants from around the world.

“The plant in bloom is an unknown species” that was donated to Miami in 2005, the year the Conservatory opened.

Grubb, who also is a faculty instructor, said Miami has five species in its collection. Its Queen Victoria agave bloomed last year.

This agave looks like a 3-foot-wide aloe plant with light green leaves. But emerging from its center, and towering perhaps 10 feet toward the sky, is single, thin shoot that resembles a skinny asparagus.

Emma Boggs of Fairfield, who has worked at the Conservatory on Miami University’s Hamilton campus for three years, is looking forward to the flowering of the agave plant next to her. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and we’re very excited,” said Emma Boggs, a junior from Fairfield who has worked at the Conservatory three years. She said the flowering likely will happen in the next few weeks. When the Queen Victoria bloomed, it lasted “quite a long time,” she said.

The Conservatory, which can be easily spotted on campus because of its glass roof and sides, is a lot like Cincinnati’s more famous tourist attraction Krohn Conservatory in the city’s Eden Park. When the family of the late Richard Fitton donated the building, one condition was that the facility be open to the public.

Some agave plants, like the blue agave that sits next to the one about to bloom, can be used to make tequila. To do that, workers in hot places like Mexico chop off the large branches until an internal ball is left. They then chop up the balls into similar shapes, cook and shred what remains before fermentation and distillation processes.

The agave that’s now getting all the attention “is probably somewhere between 25 and 50 years old,” Grubb said.

New plants are produced by seeds, or suckers that emerge from the plants’ bases that are known as “pups.”

Boggs said because the pups the agave plant will provide, the Conservatory will have its descendants.

The facility is surrounded by 11,000 square feet of glass and often is used for community and campus events. Area elementary school classes and garden clubs also visit. Its single classroom also is available as a meeting space for outside groups.

The Conservatory is open six days of the week, and closed on Mondays. Here are its hours:

  • Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sunday: noon to 4 p.m.

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