Mangave "Mission to Mars" aka "The Shambling Mound"

Most of the references online list Mangave "Mission to Mars" as measuring in at the relatively tame size of 1 foot tall by 1 to 2 feet wide. The reality is different - at least in my yard. What started out as a cute plant maybe measuring 10 inches wide has grown into a monster at least 3-4 feet wide and tall.

Mangave "Mission to Mars" mature specimen
The amorphous form of "Mission to Mars"

Over the last year or two it has become hard to describe it's shape - or maybe even where it begins or ends as it's sprouted several large pups. It's long leaves tend to twist and turn in every direction.

Mangave "Mission to Mars" with flower stalk

While I'd still consider it an interesting (and beautiful) plant, it's size and finely serrated leaf margins make it a bad choice near paths. Mine of course is planted along a path.

Mangave "Mission to Mars" with flower stalks
"Mission to Mars" flower stalks

When I saw the flower stalk emerging last week I was surprised. I was even more surprised when I saw 2 more emerging from it's offsets. That's right - the parent plant and the pups are blooming at the same time. Weird.

Managave "Mission to Mars" flower stalk close up
Flower Stalk Close up

The flower stalks have an other-worldly quality. The purple freckles look like they could have been splattered on by a water colorist.


Mangave "Mission to Mars" flower stalk

I'm guessing by their size after a week+ that these stalks will grow quite tall. I don't know what to expect as the parentage is just described as 'complex'. This is a hybrid with several Agave and Manfreda parents. As usual San Marcos Growers does the best job providing details - Managave Mission to Mars

Updates to follow once the flower stalk has grown.

Updates:

Mangave "Mission to Mars" flower stalk
Early June, 2021

The flower stalk in the above picture is about 10 feet.

Mangave "Mission to Mars" flower stalk closeup

Mangave "Mission to Mars" flower stalk closeup

Mangave "Mission to Mars" flowers

Mangave "Mission to Mars" flowers

Mangave "Mission to Mars" flower close up

Mid-September, 2021

"Mission to Mars" seed pods remaining after blooms
Once flowering was finished - a few seed pods remained

 There were roughly 12 - 18 viable seed pods that I was able to harvest once all the flowering and pollination was completed. I let the pods dry for a few months in a cool, dark place. Once the pods began to crack open I removed all the seeds and ended up with roughly 300 - 400.

Removal

In December the time came to reclaim the space occupied by this plant. I'll jump straight to the gory part...

Agave stump squared by a handsaw

Cutting the leaves off one by one became tedious.

"Mission to Mars" offsets
Some of the larger offsets


As it turned out the plant had been growing dozens of offsets for some time and I have no doubt it would have continued to do so.

"Mission to Mars" offset
A smaller offset

"Mission to Mars" offset
Misshapen offset craziness

Most the offsets looked like the above. It was a figurative (and literal) rat's nest among all the offsets.

Empty space previously home to a large "Mission to Mars"
The empty space left after removal
 
I glad it's done - tho melancholy overall about loosing the plant. Truthfully it was the wrong plant for the space. It deserved several feet of open space around it for growth and ease of maintenance.
 
I saved three of the smaller offsets - not because I want them really but rather I just want to see if they'll actually grow!

Comments

  1. Oh my! That is weird. I've got one 'Mission to Mars', obtained in a very small pot and planted just 18 months ag. It's still dinky. If it grows like yours I'll have to find a new home for it. I wonder if your flower spikes will produce anything like bulbils, although I suppose you don't really need those as yours is clearly pupping like crazy.

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    1. I wonder too! Because it's parentage is complex I wonder if bulbils or see might revert or produce something else unexpected.

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  2. How exciting! In addition to wondering about bulbils I wonder will the blooming plant die? I assume so. Looking forward to updates!

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    1. I was wondering that as well... and to be honest I'd be ok if the plant dies after blooming :) It's gotten too big for the space.

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  3. Strange, but in a good way. Frankenplant?

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  4. These mangaves are throwing some real curveballs. My 'Mission to Mars' is still solitary and half that size, but they do seem to mature fast.

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    1. My experience with this plant was something like: "I hope it survives." and then later "Oh, it's doing well - it's grown", and then "What the heck?! this thing is taking over!" Love to hear what happens with your plant.

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  5. Have one in a container that overwinters indoors. It has filled it in one year with a whole lot of pups.

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    1. It's definitely a beautiful plant worthy of a pot. Maybe yours will stay at a size relative to the pot - I have a feeling if you got a bigger pot the plant would grow bigger.

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  6. Congratulations for growing the Mangave so well and thanks for posting this information which I have seen nowhere else.
    My Mission to Mars has been grown in ground for about 3 years and is now putting up a massive spike. Details and current photo can be seen here if interested: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pedroflor/51735579677/in/dateposted-public/
    or search PedroFlor on Flicker.

    Can you please update what has happened to your plant? Did it die after flowering? Did it produce seed or bulbils?

    Do you know the parentage of Mission to Mars?

    Regards,

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    1. Hi and thanks for stopping by. Your image on flickr looks great and leads me to believe this plant is prone to blooming much sooner than an agave. I'll update the post but in short my specimen did not produce bulbils - it did produce some seed pods not as many as the flowers might lead u to believe. I'm attempting to germinate about 100 of seeds now. I half expect what ever grows to look different than the parent plant - because it's a complex hybrid. As for the parent plant itself - I decided to remove it as its form had turned multi-headed and unkempt. A few of the leaves were browning at the ends, some dying but I think it would have struggled on for some time longer.

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