Thursday, June 14, 2001

Miss this bloom and wait 20 years

Plant grows though roof at Krohn

By Jim Knippenberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Kelly Heev of Fort Wright looks up at the mescal with her children, Joey, 8, and Andy, 4.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        A plant that blooms once every 20 years then dies of exhaustion has gone through the roof at Krohn Conservatory. Literally.

        Krohn's mescal bacanora, the Mexican cactus-like plant used to make tequila, is normally a squat 5-feet by 5-feet. But when it comes time to bloom, it experiences a rapid growth spurt, sometimes as much as 8 or 10 inches a day, says Roni Adkins, the florist in charge of Krohn's cactus room.

        Late last week the spurt went hog wild: It hit 18 feet, forcing Krohn to remove part of the roof.

        Now it stands there al fresco, this lone stalk, with as much as 10 feet more growth ahead.

        The downside? The flowers give off the aroma of rotten meat to attract the bats that pollinate the plant.

[photo] The mescal bacanora grows through the roof
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        And no, Ms. Adkins says, Krohn won't be making tequila. “We have the recipe, but you need to cut the core from the plant right before it blooms. We'd rather see it bloom.

        “The growth spurt saps so much energy and water from the plant that it can't survive.”

        “But before it dies it sends out runners or pups that grow into new plants.”

        There goes the roof again. Say, about 2021.

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