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 valenciana is an evergreen, short-stemmed, succulent plant forming a rosette of leaves that can be 170 - 220cm tall and 270 - 330cm in diameter. Around 7 - 15 leaves are produced on mature plants, each of which can be 150 - 230cm long and up to 30cm wide near the base (45cm near the middle). After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 5 - 7 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use in making the alcoholic beverage mezcal. It is also grown as an ornamental.
Agave valenciana has a very small extent of occurrence and area of occupancy, it is known from only one location and the very small population is facing over-collection to satisfy an increasing demand for mezcal production. The plant is classified as 'Critically 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[
Southwestern N. America - western Mexico (Jalisco)
Steep slopes of basaltic rock in canyons, in the ecotone of tropical deciduous forests with temperate oak forests; at elevations from 900 - 1,250 metres[
|Conservation Status||Critically Endangered
|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[
This species produces very large rosettes and possibly has the potential for the production of 'raicilla', a distilled liquor like mezcal but considered to be superior and therefore to command higher prices[
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 plant is used to make mezcal[
], a distilled alcoholic beverage that can be made from almost any species of Agave, though around 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.
Prepared hearts of this plant are very large and can weigh more than 350 kilos[
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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