Commentary

Blooms mean the end is near for Fort Mill’s ‘Ginny,’ a century plant

adys@heraldonline.comJuly 9, 2014 

— Ginny, age 10, a beautiful, natural blonde, is dying.

And the woman who raised her, age 81, a pip by the name of Janie Mixon, is crying over Ginny’s imminent death. Ginny’s brief, only appearance on the stage of life is ending as she reaches an astonishing 15 feet tall.

“Isn’t Ginny just beautiful?” asked Mixon, and the answer was yes despite spines on Ginny that could poke your eye out.

Ginny is past life-support. She’s in a coma. It would be crass to call Ginny a vegetable, but she is.

No medicine or doctor or priest can help this blonde beauty of Fort Mill. Her beautiful green legs and trunk, topped with the blonde that never saw a bleach job, are days from death.

Not even a botanist can save Ginny.

Because Ginny is a plant.

A century plant.

And when a century plant grows its one stalk of a lifetime, the end awaits. Because the flowers bloom in yammering yellow, and after those blooms blossom and spread the seeds of life, the plant must die.

The plant really doesn’t live a century. But its one, two, or even three decades of life end as soon as the flowers come out.

“My Ginny has given the greatest performance of her lifetime,” said the one and only Mixon, who claims to be age 81 but by the twinkle in her eye and her collection of exotic plants is certainly just 18. “I have watched her grow for all these years and now since since April, the stalk grow and grow. But her blooms are out. That means she is ready to go.”

Mixon, a retired nurse, is not melodramatic. She just loves her yardful of exotic and beautiful plants and flowers, and this cactus is one of those loved.

“My mother can plant a toothpick and end up with roses,” said one of Mixon’s two daughters, Rhonda Fancher.

Mixon will tell anybody that, technically, the plant has a scientific name of Agave Americana, but Ginny is family, not science. The century plant is a close relative of the blue agave native to Mexico that gives the world tequila. Although that alone is reason enough to sing the plant’s praises, the cousin century plant’s lonely and singular bloom that is followed by death is a botanical wonder. There are people the world over who have transplanted century plants and waited until grandchildren finished college just to see a few days of blooms on one plant.

“I feel like a member of the family is about to pass,” said Mixon.

Mixon harvested some shoots from the main plant, called pups, and replanted them so that new plants can be placed around her yard or other yards. A few other shoots are poking out of the ground near Ginny. Mixon calls the pups “girls” and stated without a moments’ hesitation that Ginny is a girl, too.

“Only girls have pups,” Mixon explained, because men asking about babies, even plants, are not real bright and need explaining about birds and bees.

But even with Ginny’s children to come in a generation or two there is only one Ginny. The green and blonde girl who has grown in the front garden in Fort Mill and in just weeks jumped over the roof to 15 feet.

But why Ginny?

“Virginia is my middle name,” said Mixon. “I named her. And when she dies, there will never be another one like her.”

Not for decades, anyway.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065

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