October 05, 2011

life (and death) in the AZ desert {garden}

So, life in the AZ desert isn't all art journaling and scrapbooking... not hardly! Gardening is hard sometimes, even in the desert--you'd think that cacti and succulents would be pretty no-care and hardy, wouldn't you?? But that isn't always the case, as we just found out, in a pretty disheartening way... This is a picture of one of our favorite garden plants, a Blue Agave (the plant used to make tequila). It was given to us by a friend; when we planted it, it was probably only a foot and a half tall. It grew into a very impressive plant-- the photo above is from 2009 (I couldn't find any newer), and it had grown quite a bit since then. I'd say it was about 5 feet tall and at least 5 feet in diameter earlier this summer; after the saguaro, it was the main focal plant of our front yard. A couple months ago, we took at least 6-8 young plants (pups) off of it, to give it more room to grow. And then last month, this happened. We wondered: did we nick the roots when we dug up the pups?? did we not water it enough?? did we over-water it?? We had no idea. Then, it got worse: A couple days ago, Tom wiggled it from the center "growing stalk" and it tipped right over... there was nothing left under it at all!!
In talking to a friend of his, Tom found out what had happened: Our agave had been attacked. By a nasty bug called the agave snout weevil. The picture above is a close-up of (what used to be) the crown of the plant (it smelled horrible, by the way-- like rotting vegetables, or garbage). Turns out, the smell was from bacterial growth that started when the adult weevil drilled into the leaves to lay eggs; after that, the crown of the plant had been totally decimated by the larvae. Tom did the difficult (and very sad) job last night of cutting it up and putting it in the trash. It was quite awful, actually-- not only could you could see the larvae working their way through the plant base, but you could actually hear them chewing! ick!! honestly, it makes my skin crawl just thinking about it!! From what I've read on the internet, this pest is a difficult one to fight; apparently that's why you don't see many agave specimens that are more than about 5 years old. (which is about the age ours was, unfortunately.)
Regular gardening mishaps usually don't phase me: sometimes plants die; you re-plant, and go from there. But this one feels different-- more disheartening and more "personal" somehow, knowing it wasn't anything we did that caused it. I'll never look at a glass of tequila in the same way again, actually. (and I definitely won't ever eat the worm!)


Pamela said...

Oh that's awful...and gross! Sorry. :(

Anonymous said...

I agree with Pamela, awful and gross. I can't imagine what it was like to be able to HEAR them chewing! Eek! We have Saguaros in our yard, too, and fortunately it takes care of itself. Doesn't look too good, but they're still alive. They were there when we moved in 12 years ago.

Ursula said...

Aw, sorry for you. We lost one too, looks about like yours right now and I have to assume it was the same nasty bug. I have one giant on in my back yard, about 8 feet tall but most of my other ones have died.