The Century Flower
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Imagine a plant that blooms only once every
hundred years! During the last hundred years, technology has
produced the plane and the rocket. People have travelled
through space, reached the moon, and measured the distance to a
star. Television, telephone and radio have been invented.
Through all this time, the ma-dake bamboo of Japan, a “century
plant,” has flowered but once.
The Japanese people greet the phenomenon of
the plant’s flowering with sadness. The economic life of the
country people depends to a great extent upon the ma-bamboo. It
is used in making paper, creating art, building houses and for a
myriad of other purposes. Unfortunately, once the plant blooms,
it dies. The Japanese people mourn the death of these plants,
just as an American farmer would mourn the death of a wheatfield.
Miles of bamboo forests wither at the same
time. This is because a forest consists of a single generation
of plants. Plants in a generation go through the various stages
of development together.
Most other plants and flowers produce seeds
and fruit. The ma-bamboo doesn’t. It is unique. It sends out
roots to perpetuate itself. When the bamboo blossoms, even the
roots die. Ten years must pass before new roots take hold
The bamboo last flowered in 1960. In most
parts of Japan, it will not blossom again until 2060. Like
Halley’s Comet, it is a rare, natural occurrence, to be seen
only once in a lifetime, if one is born at the right time.
Sample Margin Notes
- Japanese bamboo blooms only once
every one hundred years.
- Once it blooms, it dies
- It is important to the Japanese
- Many forests die at the same time
- They cannot be replanted, they
replenish through a root system
- Roots take ten years to start
- Flowering is rare
- Last time was 1960, it will bloom in