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 univittata is not a universally accepted name for this taxon, some botanists prefer to use the name Agave lophantha Schiede.
Agave caerulescens Salm-Dyck ex Jacobi
Agave heteracantha Zucc.
Agave lophantha Schiede ex Kunth
Agave vittata Regel
Common Name: Thorn-Crested Agave
Agave univittata is an evergreen, clump-forming, stemless, succulent plant producing a rosette of leaves that can be 30 - 60cm tall and 50 - 100cm in diameter. The leaves of mature plants can each be 30 - 70cm long and 3 - 5cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 3 - 5 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die. However, the plant usually produces a number of young plants around its base that will develop as new plants[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a source of fibre, and is also sometimes used to make the distilled liquor 'mezcal'. It is often grown as an ornamental, there are some named forms[
Agave univittata has a wide range, is abundant and even though the species is collected from the wild to produce fibres, the decline is very slow and the overall population is stable. It also occurs in protected areas. 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 - southwestern Texas, south through eastern Mexico to Veracruz
Freely draining cliffs and rocky outcrops and on limestone and igneous rock, where tropical forests are not dense enough to prevent adequate sunlight, also in oak forests; at elevations from 30 - 1,500 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
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.
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 for making 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.
A fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making rope and cordage[
]. The fibre obtainf from this species is not so fine as from many other Agaves, but it is very strong and wiry.[
]. It is easily prepared by first boiling the leaves for four hours and then scraping to remove the pulp[
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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