Tropical conditions in Liverpool?

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Agave on the roof crop

It has been an unseasonably warm few days in Liverpool and this Agave, native to Mexico and Central America is making the most of it.

The Institute of Integrative Biology has been home to this particular plant for nine years and it has only just started to show signs of flowering.

The Agave is one of many species of plants grown in the Institute by Dr James Hartwell, Snr. Lecturer in Plant Metabolism and his team.

James said: “It is highly unusual for an Agave to flower in the UK - I doubt there has ever been an Agave flowering in Liverpool before! It has yet to open its first flowers, so we are still hanging on in the hope that the flowers will open before it gets too cold - Liverpool is not quite as warm as Mexico! It will look even more impressive and beautiful if it manages to open its flowers, as they turn into something like a firework going off, with yellow petals, stamens, carpels exploding out of the buds.

“Unfortunately now that it has decided to flower, it will subsequently die. The Agave had to be moved out of our research greenhouses at the start of the summer when it started to grow its then asparagus-like flower spike, as there was a risk that the flower spike would hit the roof glass of the greenhouse, and potentially break through the glass.”

Agave on the roof

A tropical Agave enjoying some early morning rays on the roof of the Life Sciences building.

James and his team study the specialised form of photosynthesis called Crassulacean acid metabolism or CAM, that these desert adapted plants have evolved as part of the mechanisms that allow them to thrive in hot and dry environments.

James explains: “We have carried out functional genomics research on Agave in order to understand how CAM develops in Agave leaves and how CAM is regulated and optimised over the light/ dark cycle by the circadian clock in Agave.”

 Find out more about the project.