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Useful Tropical Plants

Agave karwinskii

Zucc.

Asparagaceae


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[
1855
Title
Two new species of Manfreda Salisb. (Agavaceae) from the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
Publication
Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 135(2), 2008, pp. 168-177
Author
Hernández-Sandoval L., Orellana R. & Carnevali G.
Website
http://dx.doi.org/10.3159/08-RA-023.1
Publisher
 
Year
2008
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

+ Synonyms

Agave bakeri H.Ross

Agave corderoyi Verschaff. ex Baker

Agave laxa Salm-Dyck

Common Name: Cachitún

No Image.

General Information

Agave karwinskii is an evergreen, succulent plant forming a dense rosette of leaves upon a short trunk that can be 30 - 70cm tall. The rosette can be 60 - 100cm tall and 100 - 150cm in diameter. Mature plants can consist of around 80 - 100 spiny leaves that can each be up 40 - 60cm long and 2 - 4cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be up to 3 - 4 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die. However, the plant usually produces a number of suckers around its base that will develop as new plants[
1207
Title
Flora del Valle de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/118975#/summary
Publisher
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Year
1993 - 2015
ISBN
968-36-3108-8
Description
An excellent flora (in Spanish) of the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán biosphere reserve in southeastern Mexico. It can be downloaded from the Internet
].
This is one of the most sought after species for commercial use in mezcal production, a distilled alcoholic beverage that is very popular in Mexico and is also exported. It is harvested from the wild on a large scale, often with some degree of management, and is also cultivated, especially in living fences[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
].
Agave karwinskii is only known from two to four locations, and population numbers are declining steeply due to the rapidly increasing demand for mature individuals for use in mescal production. The plant is classified as 'Vulnerable' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2019), and if current extraction rates continue, it will need to be reassessed[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Known Hazards

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[
1846
Title
The Agaves of Baja California
Publication
Occasional Papers of the California Academy of Sciences, No. 130,
Author
Gentry H.S.
Publisher
California Academy of Sciences; San Francisco
Year
1978
ISBN
0068-5461
Description
 
].

Botanical References

1207
Title
Flora del Valle de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/118975#/summary
Publisher
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Year
1993 - 2015
ISBN
968-36-3108-8
Description
An excellent flora (in Spanish) of the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán biosphere reserve in southeastern Mexico. It can be downloaded from the Internet
,
1844
Title
Agave Agavaceae
Publication
Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons, pp 21-311
Author
Thiede J.
Website
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-56486-8_111
Publisher
Springer Nature
Year
2020
ISBN
 
Description
 

Range

Southern N America - southwest Mexico (Oaxaca, Puebla)

Habitat

Grows in clonal clumps in shallow stony soil within arid hill regions[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
]. Xerophilous scrub, deciduous tropical forest, in limestone or sandy sedimentary soil.; at elevations from 900 - 1,500 metres[
1207
Title
Flora del Valle de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/118975#/summary
Publisher
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Year
1993 - 2015
ISBN
968-36-3108-8
Description
An excellent flora (in Spanish) of the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán biosphere reserve in southeastern Mexico. It can be downloaded from the Internet
].

Properties

Conservation StatusVulnerable
Edibility Rating *  *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Shrub
Height1.30 m
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Semi-cultivated, Wild

Cultivation Details

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[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Agave karwinskii is one of the most sought after species for commercial use in mezcal production and is often cultivated. The cultivated forms are larger than the wild, they can be up to 3 metres tall, have a greater number of leaves and both the living leaves and dead dry ones are persistent along the entire stem; the flowering period is also longer from August to February in Mexico[
1207
Title
Flora del Valle de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/118975#/summary
Publisher
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Year
1993 - 2015
ISBN
968-36-3108-8
Description
An excellent flora (in Spanish) of the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán biosphere reserve in southeastern Mexico. It can be downloaded from the Internet
].
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[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
Individual plants take about 7 - 15 years in their native habitat, considerably longer in colder climates, before flowering[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
233
Title
Perennial Garden Plants
Publication
 
Author
Thomas. G. S.
Publisher
J. M. Dent & Sons, London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0 460 86048 8
Description
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
].

Edible Uses

Flowers - cooked[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

This is one of the most exploited species of Agave in the production of mescal due to its organoleptic properties. As the mescal industry grows, demand for Agave karwinskii also increases[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].
Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage that can be made from almost any species of Agave, though around seven species, including this one, 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.

Medicinal

As a medicine to neutralize viper bites, the terminal spine is cut and incisions are made around the wound[
1207
Title
Flora del Valle de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/118975#/summary
Publisher
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Year
1993 - 2015
ISBN
968-36-3108-8
Description
An excellent flora (in Spanish) of the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán biosphere reserve in southeastern Mexico. It can be downloaded from the Internet
].

Agroforestry Uses:

The plant is grown in living fences to provide stock-proof barriers for cultivated fields[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
,
1207
Title
Flora del Valle de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/118975#/summary
Publisher
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Year
1993 - 2015
ISBN
968-36-3108-8
Description
An excellent flora (in Spanish) of the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán biosphere reserve in southeastern Mexico. It can be downloaded from the Internet
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed - surface sow in a container in a light position. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 15 - 20°c[
133
Title
Growing from Seed. Volume 1.
Publication
 
Author
Rice. G. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1987
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. 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.
Cite as: Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern. tropical.theferns.info. 2023-02-09. <tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Agave+karwinskii>

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