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A princely pleasure garden with a spectacular greenhouse

Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens

Agave blossom. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Huber
MUCH ADMIRED

BLOOMING AGAVE

Agave plants bloom only rarely, which makes it all the more amazing that the agave plants in Karlsruhe frequently bloomed in very important years. At the margravial court of Baden-Durlach in Karlsruhe, the blossom was considered a sign of luck.

Wild agave at the botanical gardens. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Huber

Agave at the botanical gardens.

Aloe americana

It was once believed to be an aloe plant, and was subsequently named Aloe americana. The Agave americana, its modern botanical name, was brought to Europe from Central America in the 16th century. Only after several years, often decades, does this plant, which can grow up to ten meters tall before it blooms and dies, form a flower head. Its bloom was, therefore, a rare occurrence, and grandly celebrated at the Karlsruhe court.

Blooming agave in blue and white pot, painted wainscot, circa 1710, in the Knights' Hall at Weikersheim Palace. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Painting of an agave from Weikersheim.

BLOOMING UPON ACCESSION TO POWER

Exotic plants were coveted at royal courts during the Baroque period. This included the agave. In 1747, a 26-year-old agave bloomed in the Karlsruhe pleasure gardens, making it one of the first in Europe. In late 1746, Margrave Karl Friedrich von Baden (1728–1811) had just been declared of age and assumed his royal seat. For this reason, the Karlsruhe court viewed the blooming of this Agave americana as a symbol of luck for the accession of the new ruler.

MORE THAN 5,000 INDIVIDUAL BLOSSOMS

5,566 individual small blossoms were counted on the plant, which reached a height of eight meters, including the flower head. To be able to marvel at it sufficiently, a circular walkway tower was built around the plant. It was located behind the orangeries, which were still located on the west side of the pleasure gardens in front of the palace at the time. After Karl Friedrich's death in 1811, his grandson, Karl, acceded to the throne, and again, an agave bloomed.

Agave americana at the Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Sandra Eberle

An agave also bloomed in the anniversary year.

THE MOST RECENT BLOOM

More than ten years after the last bloom, a blooming Agave americana could again be admired at the botanical gardens in 2008. This too, was a special year. It was the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens.

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