At the Peirce-du Pont House in Longwood Gardens is a century plant that traditionally blooms only once every 100 years. That is an exaggeration, but the real story is even better.
The plant looks like an aloe, but is actually an unrelated agave that is native to Mexico where specific varieties are cultivated to make tequila. It lives for up to thirty years, then, just before it dies of old age, puts out a single flower stalk that shoots up almost thirty feet in an explosion of stored-up vigor.
The Main Conservatory at Longwood had a century plant that bloomed several years ago. They had to remove a pane of glass in the already-high ceiling so the flower stalk could reach into the sky. The event was noted in the local newspapers, and many visitors like me came just to see and photograph this rare blossoming.
Before it dies, the century plant puts out suckers at its base that grow into new plants. The question then becomes existential: Does the plant really die when the genetically identical suckers survive?
And, wouldn’t it be great if people were programmed the same way, saving the best for last? Eat your heart out, puny teenagers. Wait your turn.