Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Not all stalks so tall are sotol

with 10 comments

Agave with Seed Stalk by Rock Outcropping 9207

After showing you a so-tall sotol, I thought I should show you another tall-stalked plant that grows in the Chihuahuan Desert, the agave, also known as the century plant. Several species of Agave grow in the area but I don’t know which one this is.

In the foreground, notice the so-called cow’s tongue prickly pear, a variety that was found a little over a century ago near San Antonio and has been cultivated in other places since then. People also plant agaves in many locations outside their natural range; that’s the case in Austin, for example, where they’re a common sight.

Today’s photograph comes once again from the grounds of old Fort Davis on November 20.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 19, 2015 at 5:16 AM

10 Responses

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  1. This is one of my favorite plants, and there’s nothing like seeing them in their natural setting. I’m eager for January, when I plan to highlight a couple of them I found at Goliad.

    The information about the cactus is interesting, too. Some of my spineless prickly pear have developed long, narrow pads. I’d never seen anything like them, and didn’t realize that there was a prickly pear that takes that shape naturally. Maybe there was some cross-pollination going on back in the hills, or maybe they just need a little extra sunshine, so they don’t have to reach for it.


    December 19, 2015 at 8:48 AM

    • Yes, one virtue of “Go west, young man, go west” is seeing these desert plants in the desert rather than as part of someone’s landscaping. That prominent rock outcrop in the background didn’t hurt, either.

      I wonder if some species of prickly pear are more likely to develop long pads than others, or if the elongation is a result of a random mutation rather than some predilection. From what I’ve read, people have planted the cow’s tongue variety in many places, but I’m surprised that anyone would have planted this one, which strikes me as spontaneous. Maybe seeds got spread to this place from somewhere close in the town.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2015 at 9:28 AM

  2. So that’s what an agave looks like! Thank you – a lovely picture with the rock outcrop in the background. I wonder why they grow so tall? Don’t most plants grow like this to reach the light, but there’s no problem of that kind here. Also you’d think in a desert that such a long stalk would waste precious water resources. I’m no botanist (as perhaps you can tell!) so perhaps there’s an obvious answer!

    • I’m no botanist either, so I’m afraid I don’t know how to answer your good question of why plants like the agave and sotol produce such tall flower stalks. It’s clearly not to reach light, because, as you pointed out, these plants grow in the desert where there’s almost constant sunshine during the day. If any reader knows the answer, I’ll be glad to hear it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2015 at 4:03 PM

  3. My brother saw one of the agave plants in Croatia recently. I hope this link works. http://bit.ly/1T9pRQ2

    Jim Ruebush

    December 19, 2015 at 9:04 PM

  4. A great angle once again sharing that patented Schwartzman sky. Nice play on words as well.

    Steve Gingold

    December 22, 2015 at 4:17 AM

    • For the most part, blue skies are a fact of life above the desert that is west Texas. Plays on words are mostly a fact of life in my head.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 22, 2015 at 6:32 AM

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