KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — For five decades, Western Michigan University has had a special guest living on its campus. But the massive plant is about to bloom, bringing its time on campus to an end.
WMU’s Finch Greenhouse is home to plenty of plants, including ‘Alice,’ a 50-year-old and counting agave plant.
Manager Chris Jackson is not surprised by how long Alice has lived, for a plant known to make a happy hour staple, tequila.
“Most of those, I think, are harvested when they’re about 3 to 4 to 8 years old. This one’s obviously way older than that,” Jackson explained. “It’s a pretty big plant itself and it’s an old plant — I estimate the age between 50 and 60 years old.”
But like her many roommates, Alice’s purpose for biology students and greenhouse visitors centers more around her care.
“The less you do, the better,” Jackson said. “It’s a really low-maintenance plant. The worst thing you can do to Alice is water it once a week, that would be horrible to it. It would probably rot that root right out.”
Alice has done anything but rot. According to Jackson, she grows at least 3 and a half inches per day. Earlier this year, facilities management had to install a 6-foot-tall protective tube to give her more real estate, a greenhouse first.
But soon, the so-called ‘century plant’ will bloom and eventually pass away, after seeing it all through the years.
“If that’s all successful, it should produce viable seeds, which we can give away to people to have Alice’s progeny,” Jackson said.
Jackson confirmed the agave from Alice will not be in any shot glasses or margarita pitchers. Instead, she will be in the compost pile to give way for future agave plants in the greenhouse.