Grow, Baby, Grow: Fastest-growing Plants

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In the world of flora, some plants are revered for their slow, steady growth. The glacial pace at which a bonsai tree takes its shape over many years – even over multiple lifetimes – fascinates us. We marvel at the great redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest, with trees dating back centuries. On the other hand, there are also some plants that grow so mind-blowingly fast that you can actually sit there and watch them get bigger before your very eyes. Now, which do you think we’re going to focus on …?

5 Akebia

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The fastest growing vine plant in the U.S. is the Akebia, which can grow more than 40 feet per year. This ivy-like creeper is a favorite of wildly impatient homeowners who want their houses to get that romantic English countryside look in as little time as possible. Just be careful what you wish for: The Akebia vine will grow right over your doors and windows if you let it.

4 The empress tree

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Arguably the fastest growing deciduous tree in America, the empress tree is a now-established transplant from China that can grow an astonishing 15 feet in a single year! (Though that’s fast even for this fast mover, to be fair.) This tree is prized by homeowners and landscape designers alike because of how quickly it grows tall and broad. However, it’s also a threat to native, slow-growing trees because it essentially takes root then takes over, reaching a height of up to 60 feet in less than a decade.

3 Cabbage

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The fastest growing leafy plant traditionally thought of as foodstuff is cabbage, hence its relative cheapness compared to fancy pants vegetables like … bok choy. A cabbage plant can usually produce edible food less than a month after being planted in the ground (assuming you’re growing it from a charming little seedling, not from the seed itself). And thanks to its resistance to cold and frost, you can enjoy cabbage all year round in many parts of the world.

2 Kelp

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Kelp is a member of the seaweed “family,” thus ever so technically is an algae, which ever so technically means it’s not exactly a plant. But it’s pretty damn close, and kelp can almost keep pace with bamboo, growing at the rate of up to 20 inches per day under the right conditions. Kelp “forests” can grow to be huge, often reaching nearly 300 feet up from the sea floor.

1 The medal for fastest plant on earth goes to … bamboo!

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Some varieties of this widespread grass can grow up to 35 inches in a single day! The rate of growth is so fast you can think of it in terms of miles per hour, though 0.00002 mph doesn’t sound quite as impressive. Many varieties of bamboo grow taller than 100 feet. Given its rapid growth and impressive heights, it’s no wonder more and more companies are using it as a renewable source of building material.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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