Agave rigida elongata Baker
Agave sullivanii Trel.
Common Name: Henequen
Cultivated plant (centre) at Lanzarote
Photograph by: Michiel1972
Henequen is an evergreen, succulent, perennial plant, usually without a stem, producing a rosette of leaves up to 2 metres long. Towards the end of its lifespan it produces a 5 - 7 metre tall flowering stem with yellow flowers[
An ancient fibre crop plant of the Maya Indians, the plant is still cultivated for its useful fibre, mainly in Mexico since plantations are less successful in El Salvador, Venezuela, Cuba, Jamaica, Tanzania, Mozambique and in the islands of Polynesia[
C. America - Guatemala to southern Mexico.
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A plant of the drier tropics. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 30°c, but can tolerate 10 - 40°c[
]. It can be damaged by temperatures of -5°c or lower[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 900 - 1,250mm, but tolerates 700 - 2,500mm[
Requires a sunny position in a well-drained soil. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 - 7.5, tolerating 6 - 8[
It require 4 - 6 years to first harvest, and the leaves can subsequently be harvested twice a year[
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[
In Mexico the plant has a life cycle of 15 - 30 years[
This species is a sterile hybrid taxon[
The plant is used for medicinal purposes[
The plants are cultivated as hedges and living fences in Cuba[
A fibre is obtained from the leaves[
]. Coarser than the fibres from sisal (Agave sisalana), they are used for the production of ropes, nets, floor-covering and harvest binding strings[
The roots contain saponins and can be used as a soap substitute[
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.
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