Agave abrupta Trel.
Agave altissima Zumagl.
Agave communis Gaterau
Agave complicata Trel. ex Ochot.
Agave cordillerensis Lodé & Pino
Agave expansa Jacobi
Agave felina Trel.
Agave fuerstenbergii Jacobi
Agave gracilispina (Rol.-Goss.) Engelm. ex Trel.
Agave ingens A.Berger
Agave melliflua Trel.
Agave milleri Haw.
Agave ornata Jacobi
Agave picta Salm-Dyck
Agave ramosa Moench
Agave rasconensis Trel.
Agave salmiana gracilispina Rol.-Goss.
Agave spectabilis Salisb.
Agave subtilis Trel.
Agave subzonata Trel.
Agave theometel Zuccagni
Agave variegata Steud.
Agave virginica Mill.
Agave zonata Trel. ex Bailey
Aloe americana (L.) Crantz
Common Name: Agave
Cultivated plant in Denton, Texas
Photograph by: CameliaTWU
Agave americana is an evergreen, succulent plant forming a large, rosette of sharply-pointed leaves a metre or more long and a flowering stem that can be 7 metres or more tall.
A true multipurpose plant, providing food, medicine and many commodities for the people who live in its arid environment. It is also used to produce a syrup, which is traded internationally. The plant is often grown as an ornamental.
Contact with the fresh sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive people[
The plants have a very sharp and tough spine at the tip of each leaf. They need to be carefully sited in the garden.
South-western N. America - Mexico, Texas, Arizona.
Original habitat is unknown but it grows wild in Mexico on cultivated land and in pine woods[
]. Sandy places in desert scrub at elevations around 200 metres in Texas and eastern Mexico[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Agave americana is native to semi-arid areas in the warm temperate and subtropical zones, though it has often been cultivated in the Tropics. It is not very cold hardy, tolerating temperatures down to about -3°c or lower if conditions are not wet[
Requires a very well-drained soil and a sunny position[
]. Succeeds in poor soils[
]. Established plants are very drought resistant[
Widely cultivated as an ornamental, it has escaped from cultivation in some areas and is reported as being invasive in New Zealand and some of the Pacific Islands[
A monocarpic species, the plant lives for a number of years without flowering but dies once it does flower. However, it normally produces plenty of suckers during its life and these continue growing, taking about 10 - 15 years in a warm climate, considerably longer in colder ones, before flowering[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
The heart of the plant is very rich in saccharine matter and can be eaten when baked[
]. Sweet and nutritious, but rather fibrous[
]. It is partly below ground[
Seed - ground into a flour and used as a thickener in soups or used with cereal flours when making bread[
Flower stalk - roasted[
]. Used like asparagus[
Sap from the cut flowering stems is used as a syrup[
] or fermented into pulque or mescal[
]. The sap can also be tapped by boring a hole into the middle of the plant at the base of the flowering stem[
The sap of agaves has long been used in Central America as a binding agent for various powders used as poultices on wounds[
]. The sap can also be taken internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery etc[
The sap is antiseptic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue and laxative[
]. An infusion of the chopped leaf is purgative and the juice of the leaves is applied to bruises[
]. The plant is used internally in the treatment of indigestion, flatulence, constipation, jaundice and dysentery[
]. The sap has disinfectant properties and can be taken internally to check the growth of putrefactive bacteria in the stomach and intestines[
Water in which agave fibre has been soaked for a day can be used as a scalp disinfectant and tonic in cases of falling hair[
Steroid drug precursors are obtained from the leaves[
A gum from the root and leaf is used in the treatment of toothache[
The root is diaphoretic and diuretic[
]. It is used in the treatment of syphilis[
]. The roots are steeped in water, and the water ingested for treating various ailments such as stomach pain, painful and difficult urination, scurvy, swollen and bleeding pulp of teeth, swollen bones, constipation, and poor appetite or loss of appetite[
All parts of the plant can be harvested for use as required, they can also be dried for later use. The dried leaves and roots store well[
The plants are used in land-reclamation schemes in arid areas of the world[
The plant contains saponins. An extract of the leaves is used as a soap[
]. The roots are used according to another report[
]. It is likely that the root is the best source of the saponins that are used to make a soap[
]. Chop up the leaves or the roots into small pieces and then simmer them in water to extract the saponins. Do not over boil or you will start to break down the saponins[
There is a report that the plant has insecticidal properties, but further details are not given[
A very strong fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making rope, coarse fabrics etc[
]. A paper can also be made from the leaves[
]. The fibre is composed of large filaments, white, brilliant, and readily separated by friction; it takes colour freely and easily; it is light, and contracts under water rapidly[
]. Its main faults are the stiffness, shortness, and thinness of wall of the individual fibres, and a liability to rot[
The thorns on the leaves are used as pins and needles[
The dried flowering stems are used as a waterproof thatch[
] and as a razor strop[
Seed - surface sow in a container in a light position. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 20°c[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of well-drained soil when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a sunny position until they are at least 20cm tall.
Offsets can be potted up at any time they are available. Lant out when the root system is established.