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 Agave subsp. var.  Agave
Agave americana (Century Plant)
Habit: cacti-succulent
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: perennial
Poisonous: Some species juice cause rash
Exposure: sun, part-sun
Water: moderate, dry
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: to
Sunset Zones: vary by species
Flower features:
Agavaceae > Agave var. ,

Chiefly Mexican, agaves occur also in the southern and western United States and in central and tropical South America. They are succulents with a large rosette of thick fleshy leaves, each ending generally in a sharp point and with a spiny margin; the stout stem is usually short, the leaves apparently springing from the root. Along with plants from the related genus Yucca, various Agave species are popular ornamental plants.

Each rosette is monocarpic and grows slowly to flower only once. During flowering, a tall stem or "mast" grows from the center of the leaf rosette and bears a large number of shortly tubular flowers. After development of fruit, the original plant dies, but suckers are frequently produced from the base of the stem, which become new plants.

It is a common misconception that agaves are cacti. They are not related to cacti, nor are they closely related to Aloe whose leaves are similar in appearance.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture
the large flower spike of Agave chiapensis

AGAVE (Greek, agauos, admirable). Amaryllidaceae. Important decorative and economic plants from hot American deserts, the most familiar of which is A. americana, the Century Plant, or American Aloe.

Stem short or wanting: lvs. mostly in a close rosette, usually stiff and more or less fleshy, persisting from year to year, the margins mostly armed with teeth and the apex tipped with a usually pungent spine: fls. in spikes (Littaea) or panicles (Euagave); perianth 6-parted, more or less funnel-shaped; stamens 6, mostly long-exserted; style 1; stigma capitately 3-lobed; ovary inferior, 3-celled; seeds numerous, flat, thin, black.—Some species flower but once and die, others occasionally, while others flower from year to year. The number of species is fully 300, and more than 325 have been described, largely from the Mexican tableland, although each island of the W. Indies possesses its peculiar species. One of the largest collections is at Kew, where there are 85 named species. The largest collections in the U. S. are at the Botanical Garden of Washington and the Missouri Botanical Garden, where there are about 75 species each. Amateurs often cult. a greater number of species than are described in this account.

The most complete monographs of the genus as a whole are by General von Jacobi, in the Hamburg Garten Zeitung, 1864-1865, of which a limited number of reprints with supplements were issued in book form, and by J. G. Baker in the Gardeners' Chronicle, 1877, with excellent small illustrations, which was amplified in his Handbook of the Amaryllideae, 1888. Several of the natural groups composing the subgenus Euagave have been monographed and illustrated in the Reports of the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of which also contains a monograph of the species known to occur in Lower California. The half-hundred West Indian species are figured and monographically treated in the eleventh volume of Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences. Engelmann has published a monograph of the species of the United States, first classified on flower characters, in the Transactions of the Academy of Science of St. Louis, Vol. III.

Agaves are essentially fanciers' or amateurs' plants. This noble group of plants has never received the attention it deserves, and yet no genus of plants in America furnishes so many suitable decorative plants. Sir Joseph Hooker places it next to the palm and aloe, but the former is a great family of 1,100 species. While in the United States one thinks of the agaves only as decorative plants, yet in Mexico, their native home, they are the most useful of plants. Many species furnish fiber, others soap, while still others produce the two great Mexican drinks, pulque and mescal. Pulque, which is a fermented drink, is derived from several species, especially A. atrovirons. Mescal, which is a distilled drink, is usually not obtained from the same species as pulque, although there is a general belief to the contrary. The species from which is made most of the mescal used in Mexico is unknown. —The species vary so much in size and form that they can be used in a great many ways. Some of the smaller species are suitable for the house, and even some of the larger species are so used. The larger species are well adapted for vases in large gardens and grounds, along walks, terraces, and the like. These plants, coming, as they do, from arid or even desert regions, where they have a hard struggle to exist, can be grown with little or no care, but they respond very quickly to good treatment. —The species are propagated in various ways; some produce suckers at the base, or even underground shoots; others give off buds from the stem, which fall off and take root, or may be detached and planted; while not a few produce bulblets in the flower-clusters, and sometimes in great abundance. Nearly all may be produced from seed, but as most of the species flower only after a long interval, and many have not yet been known to flower in cultivation, this latter means of propagation cannot be relied upon. In cultivation, fruit is set very sparingly or not at all without artificial pollination, although this can be accomplished with very little trouble.

The agaves are not at all difficult to grow. The soil should be principally loam and sand, and if any vegetable soil be given it should be in small quantities. Good drainage and firm potting are necessary. To grow small plants of the large-leaved kinds into good-sized specimens quickly, they should be plunged out in a sunny spot in spring, taking care that the pots are large enough so that they will not require repotting in the fall. Nearly all of the large-growing kinds are easily increased from suckers, which, when the plants are grown in a pot-bound condition, are produced very readily. They should be taken off from the parent plant only when furnished with sufficient roots to give thorn a start. Some kinds are raised only from seeds, which, when freshly gathered, germinate in a few weeks. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


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There are many species of Agave, see the List of Agave species.

Selected species:

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

The classification of the agaves is very perplexing. This is partially owing to the number of species, to the scarcity of preserved study material, and to the infrequency of flowering in many species. In fact, many species have never been known to flower. The most usable characters for classification are to be found in the leaves, of which the end-spine and marginal prickles are very characteristic, and, although such an arrangement is more or less artificial, it is the most satisfactory in naming a collection. From a botanical point of view, however, the inflorescence shows the true relationship of the species. In this way the genus is usually divided into three groups or subgenera. These are: First, Euagave, having a paniculate inflorescence, with candelabra-like branches, Second, Littaea, having a dense spike of usually paired flowers. (The section Litteae has been considered by some a good genus, but it seems to connect with the first section through certain species.) The third section, Manfreda, is very different from the above, and is now considered as a distinct generic type, and so treated here. Manfredas are all herbaceous, appearing each year from a bulbous base: the leaves are soft and weak, dying down annually, while the inflorescence is a slender open spike, with solitary flowers from the axils of bracts.

The following names occur as being in cult.: A. Bakeri, Hook, f. Resembles a gigantic eremurus in habit. Fls. with pale greenish yellow segms. Mex. (?). Gn. 61, p. 240.— A. carchariodonta. Allied to A. Ghiesbrechtii. Lvs. flatter, narrower and more spiny.— A. Langlassei, Andre. General habitas of Furcraea Bedinghausei. Infl. about 3 ft. high. Mel. R.H. 1901: 349.—A. littaeoides Allied to A. Scolymus. Stemless: lvs. strongly prickly toothed, terminated by a stout spine: fls. greenish yellow.—A. Pavoliniana. Stemless: fls. green-yellow.—A. Watsonii. Allied to A. horrida. Distinguished by extremely narrow border of the lf. Probably Cent. Amer.— A. Weberi. Distinguished by almost complete absence of marginal teeth. Mex.—A. Wrightii. J. R. Drumm. Allied to A. geminiflora. Has been cult. under name of A. Taylori. Trunk short: margins of lvs. sharp without teeth or prickles: perianth dark green with cream-white borders. Cent. Amer. B.M. 8271.

INDEX. abortiva, 33. Besseriana, 6. cochleata, 11. adornata, 48. Bignetii, 48. coerulescens, 36. albicans, 30. Bonapartea, 49. Cohniana, 54, albida, 11. Bonnetii, 11. compacta, 11, 47. altissima, 21. Bonnetiana, 11, 18. compluviata, 19. americana, 19, 21. Boscii, 49. concinna, 6. amaena, 11. Botterii, 34. Considerantii, 44. amurensis, 43. bracteosa, 55. Cookei, 1. anacantha, 2. brevifolia, 47. Corderoyi, 5. ananassoides, 8. brevis, 2. cornuta, 43. angustifolia, 1. bulbifera, 9. Couesii, 14. angustissima, 48. candicans, 6. crassispina, 19. applanata, 13, 14. candida, 6. crenata, 11. artichaut, 40. caribaea, 32. Croucheri, 11. atricha, 49. Celsiana, 31. ctenophora, 30. atrovirens, 19. Celsii, 31. cucullata, 11. attenuata, 28. chiapensis, 33, cyanea, 10. auricantha, 11. chihuahuana, 15. cyanophylla, 10. Bakeri, 5. chloracantha, 32. dasylirioides, 53. Beaucarnei, 39. coarctata, 18. dealbata, 51, 53. Beauleuriana, 10. coccínea, 12. decipiens, 4. Bessereriana, 6. cochlearis, 19. denea, 33, 47. densiflora, 31, 33. lucida, 10. Richardeii, 51. depauperata, 47. lurida, 1, 10. rígida, 2, 3, 7. desertí , 25. macracantha, 6. rigidissima, 39. DeSmettiana, 8, 42. macroacantha, 6. robusta, 47. Diguetii, 48. macroculmis, 12. Roezlei, 50. diplacantha, 39. macrodonta, 39. Roesliana, 40. distans, 39. Maigretiana, 42. Rohanii. 41. echinoides, 51. major, 6, 39, 43, 47. Romani, 35, 47. elegans, 11. Manguai, 9. roses, 51. Ellemeetiana, 29. Mapisaga, 19. rotundifolia, 11. elliptica, 28. Marcussi, 14. rupicola, 32. elongata, 6. marginata, 1, 19, 21. Salmdyckii, 33. ensifera, 37. maritima, 48. Salmiana, 19. ensiformis, 51. marmorata, 23. Sargentii, 1. europeae, 21. massiliensis, 21,33. Saundersii, 11. falcata, 52. Maximiliana, 43. schidigera, 48. ferox, 17. medio-picta, 3, 21,30, schiedigera, 48. filamentoes, 47. 43. Schottii, 45. filifera, 47, 48. melliflus, 19. Scolymus, 12. flaccida, 12. mesotillo, 36. Sebastiana, 16. flavescens, 6. mexicana, 9, 19, 22 serrulata, 45. fourcroydes, 3. micracantha, 30, 32, 42 Shawii, 16. fragilis, 41. silvestris, 3 Fransosinii, 20. Milleri, 21, 22. Simonii, 11. Funkiana, 36. minima. 3. Simeii, 11 geminiflora, 49. minor, 47. sisala, 2. Ghiesbrechtii, 41. miradorensis, 8. sisalana, 2. Ghiesbreghtii, 41, 42. mitis, 32. spectabilis, 21 gigantea, 6. mitraeformis, 18. spicata, 54. Gilbeyi, 40. Morganii, 42. spiralis, 4. glauca, 6, 51. multiflora, 33. squalidens, 41. glaucescens, 28, 32. multilineata, 36. stenophylla, 36. Goldmaniana, 16. nana, 6, 51. streptacantha, 11. gracilipes, 14. neglecta, 7. striata, 21, 50, 51. gracilispina, 19. Newberryi, 27. stricta, 51. grandibracteata, 11. Nickelsiae, 44. subdentata, 29. grandidens, 41. nigrescens, 36. subfalcata, 6. grandidentata, 41. nigrispina, 6. subintegra, 39. granulosa, 42. Nissoni, 36. subundulata 28. Guignardii, 11, 28. Noah, 15. sudburyensis, 6. Hanburii, 40. ' obscura, 41. superba, 1. Havardiana, 14. orbicularis, 11. Taylori, 33, 47, 49. Haworthiana, 10. Orcuttiana, 16. tehuacanensis. 11, 18. heteracantha, 36, 38. Ortgiesiana, 48. tequilana, 4. histrix, 51. Ottonis, 33. tetragona, 36. horrida, 39, 40, 42. Ousselghemiana, 30. Todaroi, 23. Houghii, 54. ovalifolia. 11. torta, 43. Houlletiana or Houllettii, 2. pachyacantha, 16. Toumeyana, 45. huschucensis, 14. Palmeri, 24. triangularis, 39. hybrida, 43. parrasana, 15. Troubetskoyana, 23. hystrix, 6, 51. Parryi, 14. uncinata, 33. inermis, 36. parviflora, 46. undulata, 23. Inghamii, 40. Patonii, 15. univittata, 37. integrifolia, 6. paucibracteata, 28. utahensis, 27. intrepida, 53. paucifolia, 6, 50. Vanderdonckii, 43. ixtli, 2, 3. Peacockii, 40. variegata, 47. iitlioides, 1, 3. perbella, 37, 43. vera-crucis, 9. Jacquiniana, 1. perplexans, 46. vera- crux, 9. juncea, 49. Pfersdorffii, 35, 43. vera-crux, 9. Karwinskii 5. picta 22. verse crucis 9. Kerchovii, 39. Pilgrimii, 42. Verschaffeltii, 11. Killischii, 40. polyscantha, 33. vestita, 48. Knightiana, 48. polyphylla, 10. Victoriae Reginae, 44. Kochii, 43. Poselgeri, 36. Villae, 43. laetevirens, 21. potosina, 19. Villarum, 43, 47. laevior, 40. princeps, 48. virginia, 21. lanceolata, 11. prolifera, 3. viridis, 6, 22. laticincta, 41. pseudofilifera, 47. vivipara, 1, 7. latifolia, 4, 6, 28, 43. pugioniformis, 6. Whitakeri, 19. latissima, 19, 28. pulverulenta, 11. Wightii, 1. laxifolia, 4. purpurea, 51. Wislizeni, 15. Lecheguilla, 36. quadrata, 11. Wolkensteinii, 33. Leguayana, 41. quiotifers, 19. Woodrowii, 1. Lemairei, 39. ramosa, 21. Wrightii, 49. Leopoldii, 11, 47, 48. recurva, 50. xalapensis, 35. lepida, 10. reccurvata, 7. xylonacantha, 43. linearis, 6. Regelii, 40. yuccaefolia, 54. longifolia, 3, 6, 22, 43, 47. Regeliana, 8, 40. Zapupe, 4. rhomboidea, 11. zonata, 19. lopantha, 37.

A. Infl. a candelabrum-like panicle. (1-26.) Subgenus Eugave. B. Lvs. dagger-like or sword-shaped: spine not decurrent: fls. rather large, greenish, long-lobed. ill-smelling, often followed by bulbils; seeds very large. Trunk often developed. C. Fls. urceolately contracted in throat. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



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