The genus Agave is treated here in a wide sense to include taxa previously treated as belonging to the genera Manfreda, Prochnyanthes, Polianthes and Pseudobravoa. Not all botanists are happy with this treatment, with some feeling that these genera should remain distinct, at least until further studies have been carried out. In addition, given the high species diversity found in Agave, some feel that an alternative approach could be the recognition of several smaller genera within the current circumscription of Agave[
Common Name: Grande
Agave tecta is an evergreen, succulent plant forming a rosette of leaves that can be 200cm tall and 300 - 400cm in diameter. The leaves on mature plants can each be 100 - 200cm long and 30 - 50cm wide near the base. The plant gradually develops a very thick and broad trunk. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 5 - 7 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die. However, the plant usually suckers freely and these will develop as new plants.
The plant is harvested for local use in making a fermented beverage (pulque), and as a source of materials. It is widely grown as a hedge in Guatemala and is also used as an ornamental.
Agave tecta has an extremely small range, extent of occurrence and area of occupancy, and it is known only from one location threatened by rapid encroachment for agriculture and urbanisation. If current trends continue, the species will likely go extinct in the next decade. The plant is classified as 'Critically Endangered' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2019)[
Many Agave species have strong, sharp spines on the leaves and leaf tips.
In theory at least, the flowers, nectar, immature flowering stem and the centre of the rosette of all Agave species is edible and, with proper preparation, can provide a sweet, tasty foodstuff. Some species, however, contain relatively high levels of saponins (which makes them taste bitter) and some other compounds which can cause bellyache, and so these would only be eaten in times of desperation. In addition, many people may find these foods to be strongly laxative the first few times they eat them[
Central America - Guatemala.
The plant is not known in a truly wild state, but it is abundant in hedges in many regions in the western highlands of Guatemala, where it is found at elevations from 1,500 - 2,600 metres[
|Conservation Status||Critically Endangered
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental
Agave species are found mainly in the arid and semi-arid regions of southwestern N. America, especially in Mexico, extending from the warm temperate zone to the tropics often at moderate elevations. Many species can withstand at least a few degrees of frost, but only in drier regions and where soils are very well-drained.
Agave species generally require a sunny position, succeeding in most soils of medium-fertility so long as they are very well-drained. Most species are undemanding as to the soil pH, though those found in the wild on limestone soils will grow better in neutral to alkaline conditions. Plants are generally very tolerant of dry conditions and of extended periods of drought[
Most Agave species are monocarpic, individual rosettes living for a number of years without flowering before sending up an often very large flowering stem and then dying after flowering and setting seed. This species, however, usually suckers freely to produce a number of new rosettes during its lifespan and these new plants will continue to grow after the death of the parent plant. Over time, some species can form extensive clonal colonies by this means[
Individual plants take about 7 - 15 years in their native habitat, considerably longer in colder climates, before flowering[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
The flowering stems are cooked and their juice extracted, fermented, and distilled into alcoholic beverages[
The plant is used to make pulque, a milk-coloured, somewhat viscous, alcoholic beverage that produces a light foam[
]. It is made by fermenting the sap of certain types of Agave plants. About six species of Agave are considered best for use in producing pulque.
Plants take around 12 years from seed before they start to produce their flowering stem - this is then cut out to leave a depressed surface 30 - 45cm in diameter in the centre of the plant in which the sap collects. This liquid is harvested twice a day from the plant, with yields of up to 5 - 6 litres per day, and the plant can continue producing for up to one year before dying. Total yields can reach 600 litres from good plants. The sap can be drunk without fermenting it, though most is used for fermentaton.
Widely grown in Guatemala as a stock-proof hedge[
Fibres obtained from the leaves can be used for making rope[
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 15 - 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 10cm tall before planting out.
Offsets and suckers can be potted up at any time they are available.
Bulbils, where produced, are an easy method of propagation. Simply pot them up and plant out at the beginning of a growing season when they are 10cm or more tall.
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