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 is closely related to Agave angustifolia[
Agave angustifolia tequilana (F.A.C.Weber) Valenz.-Zap. & Nabhan
Agave palmaris Trel.
Agave pedrosana Trel.
Agave pes-mulae Trel.
Agave pseudotequilana Trel.
Agave tequilana is an evergreen, short-stemmed (up to 70cm), succulent plant forming a rosette of leaves that can be 120 - 180cm in diameter. The leaves on mature plants can each be 90 - 120cm long and 8 - 12cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 5 - 6 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die. However, during its lifetime the plant usually produces a number of new plants from suckers, and these will continue to grow after the death of the mother-plant[
Agave tequilana is of considerable economical importance as the source of the distilled liquor 'Tequila'. Under Mexican laws, tequila can only be produced from the cultivar 'Azul', which is cultivated in large plantations, especially around the town of Tequila (in the State of Jalisco) The plant is also used for the preparation of the sweet syrup 'agave liqueur'[
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[
Southwestern N. America - western Mexico
The plant is only known from cultivation[
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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 cultivar 'Azul', or blue agave, is preferred for tequila production[
The sap of the plant is concentrated to make a sugar-rich syrup known as 'Agave syrup' or 'Agave nectar'[
The sugar-rich sap is extracted from the roasted bases of the defoliated flowering stems of the plants shortly before flowering, and is then fermented and distilled into mescal and tequila[
]. Tequila is a distilled alcoholic beverage similar to mezcal, but only made in a small region of Mexico and only from a limited number of species. 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 tequila.
A fibre is obtained from the leaves[
]. Known as 'Jarsia', the fibres are soft enough to be used for yarn production[
The squeezed shoot axes are used to stabilize loam-bricks[
Extracts of the leaves and stems are used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as an astringent[
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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