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3-story cactus in Kansas is blooming, likely dying

Published on -6/25/2012, 11:04 AM

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CHASE, Kan. (AP) -- A 3-story cactus that has drawn thousands of visitors to central Kansas is in the midst of its final act.

The Agave americana plant, commonly known as the century plant, generally lives about 30 to 40 years, blooms once and then dies.

That's what is happening to the plant owned by Ed and Joyce Ward of Chase for 36 years. It's begun to bloom and appears likely to die within days, Ed Ward said.

"It is falling apart," said a crestfallen Ward. "Well, it is just . doing like it is supposed to do."

The top of the plant has not yet bloomed but Ward thinks it might not bloom before the plant dies, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/MjBIMt ).

"The center of the plant is giving way," he said. "The leaves are folding down to the ground."

The plant and the Wards have made national news in recent weeks in part because of the plant's size and because it is blooming in the middle of Kansas, when it usually blooms in the southwest.

Ed gave the plant to Joyce in 1976 as a Mother's Day gift. The plant thrived and had to be transported into 10 different containers. The last one is an 8-foot-by-8-foot container built into a trailer. Ed estimates the plant, trailer and soil together weigh about 7,000 pounds.

After it grew so large that Joyce could no longer put it inside during the winter, the cactus was moved to Farley Machine Works, an oilfield repair shop on the edge of Chase where Ed is shop foreman.

For months, travelers on U.S. 56 have stopped to take pictures of the plant.

Ed Ward has done everything he can think of to save the cactus. A bucket truck has been called in, twice. Tow straps and ropes have been tied from the Farley Machine Works building to the plant to help stabilize it in the heat and wind.

Two baby plants that sprung up at the base of the plant were stolen a week ago but the Wards have a tiny offshoot growing at their house.

Do they plan on taking care of it?

"Well, if it takes another 36 years, I'll be 110 then," Ward said.

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Information from: The Wichita Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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