It might seem a little strange to give a plant a name, but if you've seen Oscar, a name — and this name — just sort of fits.
An agave americana — known also as a century plant, maguey or American aloe — Oscar has grown huge in size since owners Bill and Joyce Robinson bought him as a small start in Mesa, Ariz. That was in 1982.
About a year later, they moved to the Lake of the Ozarks. Over the years, the plant grew and grew as the Robinsons kept putting it in bigger and bigger containers trying to keep up.
After awhile, the agave became known as Oscar and is well known to many locals and visitors. People stopping in at the Robinsons' Econolift business north of Camdenton — on Old Route 5 now — either for business or sightseeing love to have their picture taken with him, according to the Robinsons' son Steve. They've also given away many starts that have come off the plant.
He was 23 when his parents bought the plant. Now, he has the responsibility of caring for the plant when his parents go to Arizona in the winter.
That's where Bill and Joyce are now, but Steve says they may return early in order to see the massive agave in bloom.
While Oscar has been one big potted plant for some time now, it's about to get bigger, much bigger.
Called century plant for its long life span, this species doesn't live for or bloom at a hundred years but it does go an awful long time.
Century plants typically live 10-30 years, so Oscar has lived a relatively long life, despite incidents over the years that might have ended things early.
Steve can recall a spring frost more than 10 years ago that nearly did the plant in. It took a year for Oscar to recover, says Steve. Or another time when the plant was in the shop for the winter and a hydraulic hose busted and sprayed hot oil all over, burning and splitting many of the leaves. But the leaves grew out, and again Oscar recovered.
During its life span, an agave americana can grow to around 13 feet wide and the leaves more than six feet long. The spines on the agave are extremely sharp. It blooms only once, which is why Steve has been photographing Oscar and emailing pictures to his mom since first noticing the stock rising in the middle of the plant.
Already a large plant, the stock that arises from the leaves to bloom can reach up to 26 feet high. Large yellow flowers bloom off this stem. Once the blooming period starts, things can go pretty quickly.
Page 2 of 2 - Steve was surprised by the blooming and was hoping it would hold off until his parents' return. But after noticing the shoot peaking up between Oscar's leaves, he says it grew more than a foot in 24 hours.
With a 13-foot garage door on the building where Oscar is wintered, Steve was afraid to leave it inside for much longer, and so the crew at Econolift built a special structure to shelter it and hopefully provide support for the stalk in high winds.
It took a forklift to move Oscar — now planted inside a large round livestock trough — into place.
"It's one of the silliest things I've done, and I've done some silly things," says Steve. "But it's been fun. I never thought it would lead to this."
With his leaves pointed up, Steve says Oscar looks healthier than ever. Sadly though once Oscar is done blooming, the plant will die.
While it will be odd not to have the monolithic agave around, Steve says they may start a new plant from one of Oscar's offshoots.