Nova Scotia

The Halifax agave is dying, but its legacy could live on

The days are numbered for what might be the most famous plant to ever grow in the Halifax Public Gardens. The good news is you might get a chance to grow your own.

Famous plant will be headed to compost, but its seeds will be up for grabs

The days are numbered for what might be the most famous plant to ever grow in the Halifax Public Gardens. But it's not all sad news: The agave's seeds are being offered to people who want to try to grow their own. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

They come in droves to stop and stare at it and take a photo or two.

The agave has captured the hearts of many in Halifax.

Now the decades-old plant —affectionately nicknamed "Agave Maria" by some — has finished blooming and is beginning its slow descent into death.

It's a day that friends Laurie Duthie and Françoise Szpilfogel knew was coming. The two have been visiting the agave at the Halifax Public Gardens since spring.

"Every Sunday, we check on it to see if our plant is doing all right or not," Duthie says.

"We've adopted it," she laughs.

"People from near and far have been here lined up, taking photos. It's been great fun."

Laurie Duthie and Francoise Szpilfogel say they come to the gardens every Sunday to check on 'their' agave plant. 'We've adopted it,' Duthie jokes. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Defying the odds

The giant plant has been drawing crowds ever since it defied odds this spring, growing a giant asparagus-like reproductive stalk and then blooming with bright yellow flowers.

Thanks to the agave, the gardens have seen a big increase in visitors this year, says Heidi Boutilier, the garden's horticulturalist.

"It's been pretty crazy," she says.

The agave is being credited for increasing the number of people who visited the Halifax Public Gardens this year. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Agave stalk will topple over soon

But the agave's days are numbered, as the bloom marks the end of the plant's long life.

With browning leaves and a blackening stem, what will happen to the agave now?

"In the near future, it will topple over," Boutilier says. "We're not sure exactly when. We're going to navigate its trajectory so that it doesn't fall on some of these valuable plants."

The agave is beginning to die, with its stem and many of its leaves turning black. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

She says the agave will eventually end up in the compost, but the seeds will be up for grabs.

"It should produce hundreds, maybe a thousand seeds," she says. "So depending on how many people want seeds, hopefully we have enough to go around."

Boutilier says she can't guarantee the seeds will grow, but she's hoping people will try and is suggesting people call the city to request some of them.

"We're willing to give the seed away and if people want to try to propagate it, that would be awesome," she says.

The agave has finished flowering and its seeds are now ripening. The plant is expected to produce hundreds, if not thousands, of seeds. (David Laughlin/CBC)

'She's a determined old lady'

It's a bittersweet ending for many of the agave's loyal fans, including friends Duthie and Szpilfogel.

"She's taught everybody a whole pile of new stuff. There's been kids and grandparents and everything in between learning about this wonderful plant," Duthie says.

"She's done her job, just like a mother," Szpilfogel says.

The two hope they'll have a few more visits left with the plant.

"She's a determined old lady, she's not ready to go yet. And we're on her side," Duthie jokes.

A tour group stops in the Halifax Public Gardens to look at the agave plant, which bloomed for the first and only time in its decades-long life. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

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About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca