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[
There has been considerable confusion over the name Agave angustifolia. We have followed the treatment of Garcia-Mendoza and Chiang (Brittonia Vol 55 No.1 pp82-87. 2003)[
] who treat this as a distinct species, separate from Agave vivipara and with a distinct range[
]. By this treatment, all references for Agave vivipara with a range covering central America should refer to this species since Agave vivipara is native only to the islands of the Caribbean[
Agave aboriginum Trel.
Agave bergeri Trel. ex A.Berger
Agave breedlovei Gentry
Agave bromeliifolia Salm-Dyck
Agave costaricana Gentry
Agave cuspidata Baker
Agave deweyana Trel.
Agave donnell-smithii Trel.
Agave elongata Jacobi
Agave endlichiana Trel.
Agave exselsa Baker
Agave flaccida Haw.
Agave flavovirens Jacobi
Agave houlletii Jacobi
Agave ixtli Karw. ex Salm-Dyck
Agave ixtlioides Hook.
Agave jacquiniana Schult. & Schult.f.
Agave kirchneriana A.Berger
Agave lespinassei Trel.
Agave letonae F.W.Taylor ex Trel.
Agave nivea Trel.
Agave owenii I.M.Johnst.
Agave pacifica Trel.
Agave panamana Trel.
Agave prainiana A.Berger
Agave prolifera Schott ex Standl.
Agave rigida Mill.
Agave rubescens Salm-Dyck
Agave serrulata Karw.
Agave sicaefolia Trel.
Agave vivipara bromeliifolia (Salm-Dyck) A.Terracc.
Agave vivipara deweyana (Trel.) P.I.Forst.
Agave vivipara letonae (F.W.Taylor ex Trel.) P.I.Forst.
Agave vivipara nivea (Trel.) P.I.Forst.
Agave vivipara rubescens (Salm-Dyck) P.I.Forst.
Agave vivipara sargentii (Trel.) P.I.Forst.
Agave wightii J.R.Drumm. & Prain
Agave yaquiana Trel.
Agave yxtli Karw. ex G.Don
Agave zapupe Trel.
Furcraea rigida (Mill.) Haw.
Common Name: Espadín
Agave angustifolia is an evergreen, stemless or short-stemmed (to 60cm), succulent plant forming a rosette of leaves that can be 100 - 200cm tall and 150 - 200cm in diameter. Around 40 - 70 leaves are produced on mature plants, each of which can be 60 - 100cm long and4 - 10 cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 2.5 - 5 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die. However, the plant usually produces a number of young plants around its base that will develop as new plants[
This is one of the main species in the genus for making the drink 'mezcal', a distilled alcoholic beverage that is very popular in Mexico and is also exported. The other uses of the plant are many and varied, including supplying food, fibre for ropes, construction material, fuel, beverages, traditional medicines and diverse utensils for local people[
]. The plant is often cultivated or managed in the wild for making mezcal, and is also grown as an ornamental[
Agave angustifolia has a wide range, it is abundant and even though there are threats in parts of its range, it
occurs in many protected areas and its overall population is stable. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' 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[
C. America -Panama to Guatemala and northern Mexico
Brushy rocky slopes, moist quebradas, or moist thickets, often planted in hedges or for ornament, at elevations from 200 - 3,000 metres[
]. Found in several vegetation types, from coastal dunes at sea level to oak-pine forests at 2,200 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Semi-cultivated, Wild
Agave angustifolia is a very environmentally versatile Agave due to its wide latitudinal distribution range (it can be found from the north of Mexico to Costa Rica and Panama). The species is also found in Pine-Oak forest with tropical influence in the pacific range of Mexico. The most extreme habitats the species occupies are the arid Sonoran Desert, with an average annual precipitation of 250mm, and the pine-oak forest close to Uruapan Michoacán, with a mean annual rainfall of 1,680mm. The northern forms can survive winter frost without damage; whilst the tropical ones are more or less sensitive to low temperatures[
]. A plant of drier areas in the tropics, northern forms can tolerate temperatures down to at least -4°c so long as the conditions are dry[
Requires a sunny position[
]. Requires a well-drained soil[
]. Succeeds in poor soils[
]. Established plants are very drought resistant[
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, produces a number of new rosettes from suckers or offsets during its lifespan and these new plants will continue to grow after the death of the parent plant[
The flowering stem can produce an abundance of bulbils[
Individual plants take about 7 - 15 years in their native habitat, considerably longer in colder climates, before flowering[
Agave angustifolia is the wild progenitor of the cultivated species Agave tequilana (which is mainly used for producing alcoholic beverages) and Agave fourcroydes (which is mainly used for fibre production)[
Flower buds and flowers[
]. Boiled and eaten like squash[
]. Cherished as a food[
Young flower peduncles[
]. The tender young flowering stem is cut into sections and slow-baked to bring out the sweetness[
]. The heart of the plant, with the leaves trimmed off, is slow-baked to convert much of the carbohydrates into sugars. It can then be eaten, or used to make mezcal[
The cooked stems are used to make a weakly alcoholic beverage with a sour astringent flavour known as 'batari'. The stem is chopped into pieces and put in water together with the root of Phaseolus maculatus Scheele[
].. This causes fermentation forr a day or so and, when the bubbling stops the batari is ripe for drinking[
]. The older the brew becomes after this point, the weaker it grows[
]. The white, basal parts of the leaves are slow-baked. The resulting food is sweet but very fibrous - traditionally it is chewed to extract the sweetness and the fibrous portion is then spat out[
]. People eating this food for the first time find that it can have a purgative effect upon the body[
The flowering stems are cooked and their juice extracted, fermented, and distilled into alcoholic beverages[
The sap can be concentrated into a sweet syrup known as 'Agave Nectar' or 'Agave Syrup'[
The juice of the cooked leaves and stems, and a root infusion, are taken internally or used as poultices for both internal and external swelling, as well as for bruises, liver and kidney diseases, arthritis, and dysentery[
The roots are diaphoretic and diuretic[
The plant is often grown as a living fence or hedges[
A fibre from the leaves is used for making rope[
]. A very strong fibre, it is readily prepared by boiling the leaves for six hours, they are then placed through the rollers, and scraped[
The leaf bases are used as kitchen brushes[
This plant is the source of the fibre called "ixtle", with which ropes, strings, satchels and kitchen utensils are manufactured[
The plant yields a tough fibre used in the production of saddle blankets and "asak" (bags) to carry loads by horse[
An extract of the leaves is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as a bulking agent[
The leaves are used for thatching[
The spines on the leaves are used as nails or needles[
The flowering stem can be used as posts, rafters, and fences[
The root contains saponins and can be used as a soap substitute[
The sticky sap of the leaves is added to whitewash to make it adhere to walls[
The dried plant is burnt for fuel[
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.