Century plant shoots up high for family on Holiday Isle

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Not only is the name century plant deceiving, but so is its appearance. 

The Bleakley family, who live on Holiday Isle in Destin, got quite the surprise when their plant shot up sky high a couple weeks ago.

When they moved into the home about five years ago, Stephanie Bleakley spotted the huge green plant in their backyard that resembled an aloe plant, but on a much larger scale. 

A century plant shoots up high in the backyard of the home of Stephanie Bleakley on Holiday Isle in Destin. The stalk is about 16 inches in diameter and about 27 feet tall.

“We had no idea it was a century plant,” Stephanie said. 

A friend of the family saw it and told her what it was and that after 100 years it’s supposed to bloom. 

"We read online it's every 10 to 40 years and once it blooms the whole plant is supposed to die,” Stephanie said. 

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A couple of weeks ago while Stephanie was out of town and her son Logan was at the house, he noticed something was going on with the plant. 

“So, I was here, and then I went to Louisiana for four days and I came back and it was 18 feet tall,” Logan said.  

The century plant is located in the backyard of the home of Stephanie Bleakley on Holiday Isle in Destin. The stalk has shot up to about 27 feet in just a couple weeks.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he added.  

Logan called his mom: “Hey your aloe plant is doing something weird.” 

Stephanie told him it wasn’t an aloe plant, but a century plant. 

"He thought I had stuck a tree inside of that plant. He had no idea what was going on,” Stephanie said.  

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Logan started taking photos of the plant every day from the same angle to show its growth. 

“It was 18 feet when I first saw it, now it’s at least 26 feet,” said Logan, who is 6 feet, 2 inches tall and dwarfed by the plant.

The stalk is 16 inches in diameter. 

Logan Bleakley stands next to the huge century plant that has shot up in the last couple  of weeks at his family's home on Holiday Isle in Destin.

Last week, the stalk coming out of the center of the plant had branches near the top with blooms starting to form.  

Once the plant blooms it’s supposed to die, Stephanie said, noting they’re not sure how long the process will take. 

Aubrey Santucci, a certified arborist in Destin, agrees that the century plant's name is a bit deceiving. 

“Although century plants are quite long-lived, though not nearly as long as their name would suggest, they die right after flowering,” Santucci said. 

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“As soon as the flowers set seed and drop, the plant withers and dies. Only the plant that bloomed dies. The colony in which the century plant lives continue on through suckers and offshoots formed at the base of the old plant,” Santucci said. 

Stephanie said she has noticed that “underneath it has babies.” 

So, all will not be lost when the plant finally blooms and dies. 

Stephanie said she hasn’t heard a word from the neighbors about the strange growth of the plant in the backyard. 

“I’ve explained it to a few people and they’ve never even heard of them or what they look like,” Logan said.  

The branches at the top of the century plant stalk are said to resemble a candelabra.

Stephanie has to leave town this week. 

“It’s killing me,” she said. 

Logan is in charge of taking daily photos and sending them to her. 

“We’ve got a camera on it, so we’ll be able to watch it from our home in Atlanta,” she said.