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      Nature Report: Century Plant Blooming

      Thrusting its bloom spike some 30 feet up into the South Texas sky, the century plant will bloom once and then die.

      The century plant or maguey as it is known south of the border is native to South Texas, and it is peak blooming time for these impressive members of the agave family.

      There is a remarkable ecosystem thriving near the top of the three story bloom spike, but if you want to really see what is going on up there it will require assembling construction scaffolding and ascending to the peak.

      The massive nectar rich blooms attract a variety of insects and birds. A female golden fronted woodpecker perches near a richly hued yellow bloom and dips her bill into the open flower extracting the sweet syrup.

      She pauses to answer a distant call from another woodpecker and then resumes feeding.

      Century plants are so named because it takes many years for them to bloom, usually about 25, and after they shoot up their remarkable bloom spike which can grow more than a foot a day, the depleted plant will die.

      Throughout the morning the birds come and go savoring the nectar. The female hooded oriole often perches amidst the blooms as she probes the flowers.

      The diminutive oriole is dwarfed by the huge blooms as she busily gathers nectar.

      The sweet liquid was tapped by the indigenous people of the region and called "aguamiel" or honey water, and judging by the number of birds and bees frequenting the flowers it is indeed a sweet elixir.

      With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore.