A RARE-FLOWERING plant at Kew Gardens has made a bid for freedom after breaking through the roof of the conservatory.
It is the first time the century plant (agave abrupta) has flowered during its 15 years in Kew's cacti zone - but it made up for the wait by spouting a spectacular six-metre tall stalk.
Gardeners at the centre had to open the vents and remove a pane of glass to stop it smashing through the roof of the conservatory.
The plant, named after its rare flowering, dies after producing a flower but creates large quantities of seeds which are easily spread.
In the wild, in tropical America, its bright yellow-green flowers are pollinated by humming birds. It is often used for fencing in Mexico and Central America because its bulk and needle-sharp spines are able to keep out cattle and humans alike. The fermented juice of the agave plant is also used to make the drink mescal.
Professor Stephen Hopper, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, said: "We are extremely excited here at Kew to catch a glimpse of the century plant at the peak of its life-cycle.
Visitors who come to Kew over the next month will get a rare opportunity to see a truly impressive botanical occurrence.
"This year at Kew, we are celebrating International Year of Biodiversity, and this specimen is a great example of the beauty, joy, and economic use that we get from the plants we share our planet with."