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[
Agave cinerascens Jacobi
Agave spectabilis Tod.
Common Name: Maguey de Ixtle
Agave applanata is an evergreen, succulent plant forming a large, dense rosette of 100 - 200 spiny leaves either on a short main stem or without a stem. The rosette can be 150 - 200cm tall and 250 - 350cm in diameter, with a flowering stem that can be 10 - 14 metres tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild as a source of fibre for craftwork and for making rope and cordage. It has been cultivated on a large scale in the past, but much less so at present due to the availability of plastic alternatives for rope making[
Agave applanata has a relatively large range and population. Although it has been heavily used in the past, the period of time over which the reduction of the species range occurred and its rate is unknown. However, it is not used today and subpopulations are not declining as they were historically. 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 - central and southern Mexico
Temperate and tropical dry forest habitats; at elevations from 1,900 - 2,750 metres[
]. Grows on weathering lave flows[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
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[
The species is widely cultivated within its native range and in the states of Zacatecas, Durango and Chihuahua, and in the U.S.A. within Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas[
Agave species are monocarpic, individual plants living for a number of years without flowering then sending up an often very large flowering stem and then dying after flowering and setting seed. The plants of most species, however, normally produce a number of new plants from suckers during their lifespan and these new plants will continue the life-cycle[
]. This species produces very few, if any, offsets during its lifetime and usually depends upon seed for propagation[
Individual plants take about 7 - 15 years in their native habitat, considerably longer in colder climates, before flowering[
We have no specific information for this species, but it belongs to a section of the genus Agave (the Ditepalae) that are defined in part by their low content of sapogenins and therefore sweeter flesh that is suitable for use as food[
In particular, the heart of the rosette, after the roots and leaves have been removed, can be slow-baked for several hours This will convert much of the carbohydrates into sugars and the heart can then be eaten, converted into a distilled liquor (mezcal), dried for later use etc. The best species have a very sweet, syrup-like flavour[
The slow-baked leaf bases are also edible, but very fibrous. They are chewed for their sweet flavour, and the fibrous remains spat out[
In addition, the young flowering stem can also be cooked and eaten - it has a sweet flavour, though it can be rather fibrous. The flower buds and the flowers can also be cooked and eaten.
Many Agave species produce copius nectar when flowering, and this was sometimes collected and drunk. Although sweet, it can be rather nauseus, but improves if it is boiled and the froth skimmed off[
A warning to newcomers to these foods, however - many people find Agaves to be strongly laxative the first few times they eat them[
A very strong fibre is obtained from the leaves[
]. It was used traditionally to make a wide range of items including hunting nets, baskets, rope and sandals[
This species is used for fibre; though not nearly as much as it was used in the past when other materials such as plastics were not available[
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.