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[
This species has been often confused in the literature with Agave salmiana[
Agave canartiana Jacobi
Agave coccinea Roezl ex Jacobi
Agave deflexispina Jacobi
Agave gracilis Jacobi
Agave latissima Jacobi
Agave macroculmis Tod.
Agave mirabilis Trel.
Agave ottonis Jacobi
Agave schlechtendahlii Jacobi
Littaea gracilis Verschaff.
Common Name: Maguey Blanco
Agave atrovirens is an evergreen, stemless, succulent plant forming a large, open rosette of leaves that can be 200 - 250cm tall and 300 - 400cm in diameter. Mature plants can produce around 40 - 70 spiny leaves that can each be up to 200cm long and 40cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be up to 12 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die. However, the plant usually produces a number of offsets around its base that will develop as new plants[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of materials. It is also collected from the wild for making the distilled beverage 'mezcal'. A glaucous form of this species is cultivated in Mexico for making the fermented beverage pulque[
]. It is also grown as a living fence and boundary marker, and to stabilize the soils on steep terraces[
Agave atrovirens is not commonly used, is relatively abundant, and its population is stable. 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 - southern Mexico ((Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz)).
Temperate and tropical moist montane forest; at elevations from 2,500 - 3,500 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, 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. 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 stem is roasted and eaten[
Flower buds - cooked[
The sap of the crushed stem bases is fermented to make the alcoholic beverage 'mescal'[
The sap of the plant is used to make the fermented alcoholic beverage 'pulque'[
The heart of the rosette, with the leaf bases, is slow-baked and used for making the distilled drink 'mezcal'[
The cuticle of the young leaves of the central spike is used as a translucent wrapping for the Mexican dish 'mixiote', which is prepared for festive occasions[
The plant is grown along the edges of fields as a fence and stock-proof barrier[
The plant is grown to fix the soil of terraces on steep cultivated slopes[
A fibre from the leaves is used for making rope[
]. The fibre is prepared by boiling the leaves for six hours, putting them through rollers, and then scraping. The fibre is white, wavy, and of medium strength[
The root contains saponins and can be used as a soap substitute[
The dried flowering stem is used as fence posts and as poles when making huts etc[
An extract of the heart of the rosette is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as a humectant and skin conditioner[
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.