Bloom boom graces Russell-Lee County area in time for state’s 200-year anniversary

Bloom boom graces Russell-Lee County area in time for state’s 200-year anniversary

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By Blenda Copeland

A small bloom boom is apparently happening in Russell and Lee counties.

A cluster of exotic ornamental plants are putting on a high altitude show you may not see again for decades. And even then, there are no guarantees.

After The Citizen published on May 31 a photo of a Century Plant (Agave Americana) in Phenix City about to bloom, Samantha McBride emailed on June 6 a photo of her neighbor’s plant in Smiths Station near Lake Oliver.

McBride said the stalk appeared in her neighbor’s yard a few days before the newspaper published the photo of the Century Plant on 15th Street.

“We had no idea what it was and it was rather unusual looking,” she said. “We were in the dark until your story was published. The plant reaches over the power lines […] We are waiting for it to bloom now that we understand what it is.”

There’s more to the story.

Since the first photo was published, The Citizen has now counted a total of seven blooming Century Plants in our immediate Russell County-southern Lee County coverage area. They are all in the same blooming stage. The plants’ bloom stalks shot up around the time this area was inundated with an unusual weather event: almost daily thunderstorms, many causing flash flooding, for almost three weeks straight. The May rain was so heavy in Smiths Station at one point that it washed away the earth from the sides of a bridge, forcing a handful of residents to find alternate routes until the private bridge can be fixed.

What’s even more special is that these Century Plants just so happen to be blooming in time for Alabama’s 200th anniversary. The state is in the middle of a three-year celebration of the journey to its statehood that began in 2017 and ends in 2019.

Although the plants are not native to the state (they’re common in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and are natives of Mexico), they obviously can fare well here too, as the accompanying picture shows.

At full bloom, the plants’ flowers should explode in fan-like fashion with yellow petals. Various online sources say the plants are capable of blooming after 10 years — although it could take longer — and they may live up to 30 years or so. It’s impossible to precisely pinpoint when the succulents will bloom. Their size at maturity varies plant to plant, based on various growing factors.

For this reason, The Citizen strongly encourages anyone interested in placing one of these unique plants in the yard to thoroughly consider its potential hazards to children and others — as well as the liabilities associated with growing such a huge ornamental on a small urban lot. At maturity, the enormous plant requires a lot of space. The bloom stalk can reach heights of around 25 or more feet, and the spiky-leaved base can span up to about seven feet or so.

The other blooming Century Plants The Citizen knows of are located at:

Lee Road 209 in southeastern Lee County (one plant); El Vaquero on the U.S. 280 Bypass in Phenix City (three plants are blooming in front of the Mexican restaurant); Surrey Lane in the Carriage Hills subdivision (a stunning specimen is blooming next to another, non-blooming plant).

Know of other Century Plants currently blooming in our coverage area? Email the pictures and a brief comment to: