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 Blanco
Agave gypsicola is an evergreen, stemless, succulent plant forming an open rosette of leaves that can be 70 - 100cm tall and 100 - 140cm in diameter. Around 20 - 40 leaves are produced on mature plants, each of which can be 45 - 60cm long and 20 - 26cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 4.5 - 6 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die.
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of materials.
Although locally abundany, Agave gypsicola has a very restricted range and is found in only one location. The fragility of the habitat and the its alteration by various human activities, such as free grazing, are the main threats to the species.The plant is classified as 'Endangered' 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 - southwest Mexico (Oaxaca)
Only found on soils rich in gypsum, growing in xerophytic scrub; at elevations from 1,350 - 1,600 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.
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 fresh leaves are used in the cooking of the oven barbecue[
]. This report probably refers to the tough semi-transparent outer skin of the young leaves of the maguey, which are used to wrap small parcels of food that are then baked or barbecued. This gives the food a unique flavour
The flowers and flower buds (ita xoto) are eaten cooked, they are also dried in the sun, stored and consumed throughout the year[
The stem and developing flowering stem, 'quiote', are baked and eaten as a treat[
The stem usually refers the the heart of the rosette. As the plant matures it becomes rich in carbohydrates and, traditionally, it was harvested before the plant developed a flowering stem but as it was nearing maturity. Slow-baking converts the carbohydrates into sugars, and the heart develops a very sweet flavour. The heart can then be cut into slices and eaten as is; it can be dried for later use; or it can be juiced and made into a syrup which could then be either fermented or distilled if desired.
A word of warning, however. People new to this food are likely to find that it has a strongly laxative effect the first time or two that they eat it.
With the fresh leaf, a toy called "locho" is made, the middle part of the leaf is cut into a circle and in the center part of the fabric is raised (like a "wing"), It is thrown into the air as if it were a disc, which when rotated emits a soft hiss[
The dry flowering stems are used as fences[
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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