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 caeciliana A.Berger
Agave scabra Salm-Dyck
Agave wislizeni Engelm.
Common Name: Maguey Rasposo
Agave asperrima is an evergreen, stemless, succulent plant forming a rosette of leaves that can be 70 - 100cm tall and 150 - 200cm in diameter. Around 30 - 40 leaves are produced on mature plants each of which can be 60 - 110cm long and 12 - 18cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 4 - 7 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die. However, the plant usually produces a number of suckers in its lifetime, and these will continue growing after the death of the mother-plant[
The plant is used to elaborate a distilled alcohol similar to mezcal. It is also used as an ornamental[
Agave asperrima has a wide range, is abundant, occurs within protected areas and has no threats at present, though harvesting the plant for mezcal production in Mexico has caused localized declines in the past. 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[
Southern N. America - Texas to northeast Mexico
Sandy to gravelly, often calcareous places in desert scrub[
]. Dry and rocky areas, in spineless scrubland (Larrea tridentata), natural 'nopalera' grassland (Opuntia sp.), xerophyllous scrub and Oak forests, at elevations from 747- 2,400 metres[
Agave asperrima is found in semi-arid areas from the warm temperate climate of southern Texas to the tropical regions of central Mexico at elevations up to 2,400 metres[
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, produces a number of new rosettes from suckers or offsets during its lifespan, sometimes at some disance from the parent plant, 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 plant is used to elaborate a distilled alcohol similar to mezcal[
]. Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage that potentially can be made from almost any species of Agave, though only around fifty are used regularly and seven species are especially favoured. Mature plants are harvested from the wild, their leaves and roots are removed and the remaining 'hearts' are baked (often in an earth oven), then mashed and the resulting liquid allowed to ferment for a few days before being distilled to produce mezcal.
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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