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: Maguey Rabo de León
Agave angustiarum is an evergreen, succulent perennial plant producing a rosette of around 30 - 40 leaves 50 - 70cm tall and 70 - 100cm in diameter. Individual leaves can be 30 - 60cm long and 40 - 55mm wide. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 250 - 300cm tall is produced, after which the rosette will die. This species occasionally producess a few offsets around its base that can continue growing after the death of the parent plants[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of fibre. It is also cultivated as a living fence to mark boundaries and protect crops from livestock.
Agave angustiarum has a relatively large range, numerous subpopulations, and even though there are threats in part of its range, it is not declining at a rate sufficient to qualify for a threat category. This species inflorescence is used as fodder for livestock just before it produces flowers, which impacts its ability to reproduce in many areas. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2013)[
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[
Southern N. America - southwestern Mexico
Rocky limestone outcrops in xerophyllous scrub and tropical dry forest; at elevations from 600 - 2,640 metres[
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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 will sometimes produce a few new rosettes from offsets around its base during its lifespan and these new plants can continue to grow after the death of the parent plant.
Individual plants take about 7 - 15 years in their native habitat, considerably longer in colder climates, before flowering[
This species occasionally produces bulbils on the flowering stems[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
The flowers and fruits are cooked and eaten[
]. The flower buds are stewed and eaten[
The presence of medicinal components have been researched and identified[
The whole plant is used as a live fence around cultivated land[
The leaves are used locally as a source of fibre for making ropes, cordage and twine[
]. However, the use of this species for twine is reported to be decreasing in favour of plastic alternatives[
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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