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Napa exotic plant prepares to bloom during pandemic

Napa exotic plant prepares to bloom during pandemic


Barry Brown can’t say that the COVID-19 pandemic was all bad. Over the past year, one good thing definitely happened to this longtime Napan.

About five months ago a large spiky succulent-like bush growing in his front yard decided to grow a flower stalk — for the first time in more than 20 years.

And it more than grew. The bush hatched a tall slender flower “arm” that has grown and grown and grown, sort of like Jack and the Magical Beanstalk. Now about 16 feet tall, the stalk reaches taller than Brown’s single-story house on Tallac Street.

“It’s quite the piece,” said Brown. “I’m dying to find out” what the actual bloom of the flower stalk with look like.

The plant, which Brown thinks is a “Mexican Grass Tree,” or Dasylirion longissimum, arrived at the Brown home more than two decades ago, he recalled.

For the first time in more than 20 years, a 16-foot stalk and bloom has emerged from this large succulent in Barry Brown's Napa front yard on Tallac Street.

It was a gift from a friend who was visiting from Arizona, he said. The friend went to Van Winden’s Garden Center for the purchase and even planted it for the family, he recalled. Brown said that until this year, he didn’t know it could grow a flower.

When Brown noticed the new appendage sprouting up, he went back to Van Winden’s to ask about how to care for it.

“They said don’t do anything to it. It’s blossoming, it’s happy,” was the advice Brown received.

The plant certainly is eye-catching. At its base, long spiky green grass-like blades form a puffball shape. For anyone wandering by, it’s hard to miss the stalk itself. Many people have stopped and asked about the growth, which has not “bloomed” yet, said Brown. Most ask him what the flower itself will look like.

His answer?

“I have no idea,” said Brown. “I’m waiting too.”

Part of the fun is just anticipating what it could become, he added.

One person who’s not exactly anticipating such a sight is Brown’s 96-year-old mother, Louise Brown. She has seen such a stalk sprout on this same plant before, but she nipped it in the bud.

“It was pornographic,” she said with a touch of mock seriousness.

“I didn’t think the neighbors would be excited about it,” said Mrs. Brown. “I chopped it down before I was run out of the country.”

Sure, the stalk is quite distinct, “but not in a good way,” said Mrs. Brown. “I don’t want to be famous for it.”

In fact, Mrs. Brown has made it a point to avoid looking at the appendage as it presents today.

“Thank goodness” she hasn’t laid eyes on it, she said. “I’d be horrified” to see its current appearance. In any case, “Barry won’t let me cut it down.”

For those that would like to judge the stalk in person, the bountiful bloom can be seen at the corner of Tallac and Diablo streets in north Napa.


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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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