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Despite brisk Maritime weather, spectacular desert plant set to boom in Halifax

Last Updated Apr 19, 2018 at 5:41 pm EDT

A park visitor takes a photo of an agave americana, a plant native to Mexico and the southwestern United States, at the Public Gardens in Halifax on Thursday, April 19, 2018. The plant, recently moved from a greenhouse, is blooming for the first time since it sprouted 25 years ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

HALIFAX – The typically frigid weather that grips the Maritimes at this time of year may be hindering the growth of some plants — but in a dreary corner of a Halifax park, a large plant that is more suited to the hot desert is about to put on the show of its life.

The agave americana, a plant native to Mexico and the southwestern United States, is blooming for the first time since it sprouted 25 years ago inside a greenhouse at Halifax’s Public Gardens.

With the arrival of spring, the large plant has been moved outside, where its asparagus-like stalk is expected to grow nine metres over a few weeks, then branch out with clusters of blooming flowers — and then die.

The agave is turning heads in the downtown core.

Earlier this week, some onlookers stopped to include the plant in selfies.

“It’s exciting,” Taylor MacGillivray said, standing at the tropical display bed. “Even going to Mexico you’d be lucky to see it.”

Photos of the agave on the Halifax Public Gardens’ Facebook page have garnered hundreds of likes and shares.

“We were really excited last Monday when this plant started to show that it was going to flower,” said Heidi Boutilier, a horticulture specialist.

A professed “plant geek,” Boutilier said the agave’s blooming period usually lasts a few weeks.

Boutilier confirmed that once the agave flowers, the plant will die — a process that is well known to those familiar with desert plants.

The blue agave plant can be used to produce tequila, but staff at the Public Gardens have no intention to brew their own batch, Boutilier said.

“We let it do its thing,” she said. “We aren’t going to cut it down and harvest it. We’re just going to let her take her natural course.”