Spectacular Ornamental Plant: Furcraea foetida in Bengkulu - Indonesia

Furcraea foetidas those were blooming at University of Bengkulu, 2007

This is a kind of a spectacular ornament plants.  It is because not only it takes a larger area of your garden, but also, when its bloom, it will produce a very tall flower's stalk (inflorescence). The flower' s stalk of this plant can reach 40 ft (12 meter) high !!!.

This plant is called Furcraea Foetida. Maybe the familiar name of this plant is mauritius hemp or century plant. You may thought this is an agave such as we call it in Bengkulu - Indonesia, but you're quite not right. It's true that this plant is belong to the subfamily of agavoideae, but they are in different genus. The subfamily of agavoideae has more than 23 genera, agave and furcraea foetida are two of those 23 genera. 

Both agave and furcraea foetida really looks alike, so it is hard to distinguish one from another. The primary biologically different is their distinct flower shape (filiform versus bulbous) and generally Furcraeas  are basically large Agaves (though there are a few Agaves larger than the largest Furcraeas)  They are non-suckering rosette plants with thick, stiff, succulent leaves.  Some form tall stems while others remain stemless.  

Furcraea foetida variegata and non variegata.
There are two kinds of furcraea those grow in Bengkulu - Indonesia, namely furcraea foetida and furcraea variegata.   The different between those two can be seen at the picture above. The variegata is the yellow furcraea foetida.

Furcraea foetida leaves

Furcraea foetida variegata leaves
The variegated furcraea has more attractive color, the dominating color of this plant is yellow stripped with white and green. Meanwhile, for non variegated, the color is green or light green. Even tough, both species have common features on leaves shape and size. Both are sword-shaped, 1.5- 2 m long at the longest leave, 10- 20 cm broad at their widest point, narrowing to 6-7 cm broad at the leaf base,  have a sharp spine tip at the apex and the margins  and a few hooked spines.

Blooming of Furcraea foetida flowers.
Furcraea inflorescence (stalk) are very tall (up to 40 feet) and produce hundreds to thousands of bulbils, on thin branches. The image of furcraea foetida above is about 30 feet high. It bloomed at University of Bengkulu Indonesia on 2007. 

Flowers of furcraea foetida
The above picture shows the flowers of furcraea foetida. The number of flower in an inflorescence of this plant can reach more than a thousand flowers. Each flower will change into bulb then turn into onion like shape. This onion like shape will become a new furcraea plant, while the mother plant will die as soon as the main stalk breaks. Some of these onions will start to grow its root while it still attached at the stalk, some of them grow the root after fell down from the stalk. If they lives, we will wait until 7 to 10 years later to see the next tall stalk. Around my neighborhood in Bengkulu-Indonesia, we has elapsed 4 years from when it first grew, it means that about 3 to 6 years later we will see the next tallest flower's stalk of ornament plant. What about you?

copyright 2011 Nurul Iman Supardi
e-mail: nurulimanunib@gmail.com
Bengkulu - Indonesia

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