ANN ARBOR, Michigan — An American agave's job is to flower once and then die.
One of the plants that called the University of Michigan home for an unexpectedly long 80 years accomplished the former last year.
On Wednesday, its life came to an end.
Mike Palmer, the horticulture manager at the university's Matthaei Botanical Gardens, used a hand saw to bring down the agave's 20-plus-foot-tall stalk.
"It was time. It's sad. Many people have said to me though they enjoyed the whole flowering that they were anticipating the sadness of its final days," Palmer said after he and some workers carried the fallen stalk away, leaving a stump where it once stood.
Still, "the agave lives on," said Palmer, who added new plants will be grown from its seedlings and eventually sold. Plus, university music professor Michael Gould plans to make a flute from the stalk.
Once the new instrument is created, Gould and a colleague who plays the shakuhachi, or Japanese bamboo flute, plan to perform a concert at the botanical gardens "to give the plant a life again.
"There are instruments that are hundreds and hundreds of years old, so the agave can live on," Gould said.
And a couple getting married this weekend at the botanical gardens have requested a seedling so they can use it as part of their wedding ceremony.
The agave had called Ann Arbor home since 1934. It grew to 28 feet after a rapid growth spurt in the spring of 2014 that preceded its flowering, which ended later in the year. The agave then went into rapid decline, which is normal for the species, Palmer said.
Although it is known as the century plant, the American agave typically lives up to 30 to 35 years. Palmer, who cared for the plant during the past 15 years, said he doesn't know why it took this agave so long to bloom.
Regardless, "it was time to take it down. It was the natural process for the agave to die after it flowers and sets seeds," he said.
"We have seedlings now, so they will create the circle of life."
Mike Householder can be reached at email@example.com and http://twitter.com/mikehouseholder
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