- Associated Press - Monday, January 18, 2016

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Most experts say the 28-foot-tall agave plant at University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens should’ve long been dead long before it flowered in spring 2015.

By the time it reached maturity, the plant was 80 years old and had exceeded its life expectancy by about 55 years.

“They usually flower from seed to adulthood in about 25 to 35 years of age. Our plant was 80 years old and I sort of gave up hope. I had (people) ask me when it was going to flower and I just said I don’t know,” Mike Palmer, the horticulture manager of the collections, told The Ann Arbor News ( https://bit.ly/1PdGLcs ).

“It was really a shock when another volunteer was in the conservatory and came back and said ‘Mike, did you see there’s a flower stalk coming up from the agave?’ That was in April 2014 and I couldn’t believe it, so I had to rush in there and take a look, and there it was.”

The unique plant dies after it fully blooms, but the death of the U-M agave didn’t mean the end of its life.

Before the stalk was cut down, horticulturists at Matthaei began brainstorming, trying to find ways to continue the agave’s “circle of life.” In addition to planting its seedlings, the team decided to repurpose the stalk.

But the University of Michigan - a hotbed for ingenuity and thriving environment for arts - wasn’t content with turning the stalk into a decorative carving to be displayed behind a glass case.

Michael Gould, professor of music at the University of Michigan and a performer and scholar in the field of drum set, contemporary percussion performance and pedagogy, had a different idea.

He and Michael Chikuzen Gould - no relation to U-M’s Michael Gould - teamed up with folks at Matthaei to help turn parts of the 22-foot stalk into a shakuhachi flute, and a didgeridoo is also in the works.

Michael Chikuzen Gould studied in Japan, and after returning to the U.S. taught Zen Buddhism and shakuhachi at U-M and other universities.

While the seedlings will turn into hundreds of new agaves and be relocated to different parts of the world, people will get the chance to benefit from the sounds of the shakuhachi flute in Ann Arbor.

Musicians Michael Gould and Michael Chikuzen will perform a concert of music that was composed for a traditional Japanese shakuhachi flute.

The concert will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 6, at the Botanical Gardens Conservatory in Ann Arbor.

Tickets for the concert sell for $30 with limited seating availability.


Information from: The Ann Arbor News, https://www.mlive.com/ann-arbor

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