Are we totally blind, or what?

I was lounging on the verandah Saturday afternoon and, with nothing else to dwell on,  was wondering (loungingly) if the feeble little vertical shoot of wisteria that had finally got the idea of winding around the wire I’d provided it two years ago, had it in itself to make it to the top, this season.

Eventually I decided it hadn’t …  or didn’t … or whatever you’re supposed to say after the above.

It only had about 25cm to go, but was just the finest, weakest little thread of a thing – not at all like the great, fat asparagus spear-like shoots that explode out in all directions from the established wisteria at the other end of the verandah.

Anyway, I decided to put my pessimism to the test, grabbed a permanent marker, and marked where the tip of the shoot was on the wire.  That was at 2pm.

At 4pm, I came back to check, and I’ll be darned if the thing hadn’t grown about 1cm above the mark.  In two hours!  I grabbed the camera, so as to show you (left).

Then I came back at 6pm, and took another shot (middle).  Realising that you wouldn’t be able to gauge the scale, I marked cm marks on the wire (apologies for the ridiculously fat marks – the top of the mark is closest to the truth)

It had grown 2cm in four hours.  Clearly if it kept up that growth rate consistently, it would grow 12cm a day.  Not only would it make it to the top of the wire this season, at this rate it should have done so by about cup-of-tea time this afternoon.

As you might have predicted, the growth rate isn’t consistent, and by 2pm on Sunday it had travelled about 9cm (right – shocker of a shot, but it illustrates the point).  By 2pm today it had travelled a total of about 15.5cm.

Clearly I’d seriously underestimated the potency of that pathetic looking shoot.  Far worse, I’d been looking at it for a few days previous to all this – albeit very casually – and hadn’t even noticed the change.

One Spring about a decade ago, a client rang me every Monday to tell me how much his Miscanthus sinensis ‘Giganteus’ had grown from the week before.  It topped the charts at 14 inches in one week, making it 2 inches or 5cm a day.  I thought that was extraordinary, and have dined out on the story for years.  Meanwhile, under my very nose, my unassuming little wisteria shoot nearly doubles that pace, and I don’t even notice – or worse still, come to the conclusion that it wasn’t even moving.

If only I could train myself to see.  There’s clearly so, so much going on.


  1. One day watch a Furcrea flower, or a Cardiocrinum, or a Ferula,(the original Olympic torch). I love such plants that produce enormous flowering spikes often growing 0.5m or more per day in a final gargantuan effort to reproduce. They generally are monocarpic, the original plant dying but leaving behind a bounty of juveniles.

    1. I hadn’t ever thought of these sorts of plants when considering phenomenal growth rate. Another front-runner would have to be the bolting flowerhead of Heracleum (Giant hogweed). It’s like they’re turbo-boosted by the stored energy of seasons past. And being monocarpic, they’re prepared to expend all of that energy in one great blast.
      It may, of couse be that I just didn’t think of this, in the same way as I just don’t think about a lot of stuff. Or it may be that we can’t put this sort of bolting growth (that’s the growth of flower stems from a basal rosette, as a plant ‘goes to seed’) in quite the same category. But for sheer thrill, you just cant’ beat those plants you mention

      (Come to think of it, the asparagus I mention in this text as a descriptor must give most plants a run for their money when it comes to growth rate)

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