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Agave

 

 

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae (from Stearn’s Botanical Latin)
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassLiliopsidaMonocots (plants with a single seed leaf); includes the lily family
SubclassLiliidaeIncludes lilies, orchids, and many others
OrderAsparagalesA diverse group that includes asparagus
FamilyAsparagaceaeAgaves, asparagus, hyacinths, and others
GenusAgaveFrom Greek, meaning “noble”

About plant names...

Agaves form rounded mounds, called rosettes, of tough, thick, toothed, water-retentive leaves. They are often called century plants because of the popular belief that they live a century before flowering, and this isn’t far from the truth, from 7 to as much as 60 years. Agaves are natives of deserts in the American southwest and Mexico, and sometimes have very small natural ranges. Don’t miss this great Agave Page.

Agaves’ approach to the rigors of desert habitats is mirrored by several other plant groups, including yuccas and aloes. This is an example of convergent evolution, where unrelated species evolve similar forms because they are the best adaptation to their habitats.

 

Agave

(Agave) · 2/17/2007 · Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA Species not yet identified

Agave

(Agave) · 5/25/2009 · Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, AZ
≈ 3½ × 3' (1.1 × 0.9 m) Species not yet identified

Agave

(Agave) · 2/26/2010 · San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA Species not yet identified

Here are some agave species:

 
Agave americana

Agave americana ‘Variegata’

Agave deserti ssp. deserti
Common Name

Century Plant


Desert Agave
Plant Rosette is relatively large, 6-10' (1.8-3 m) around . Perhaps the most iconic agave, the one people most think of as the “century plant.” Rosettes are 4-6' (1.2-1.8 m) high and 6-10' (1.8-3 m) around. Rosettes are 12-19" (30-48 cm) high and 16-24" (40-60 cm) around.
Flowers Yellow blooms appear on stalks 16-26' (5-8 m) high, branched at the top into 15-35 branches. Yellow blooms appear on stalks 16-26' (5-8 m) high, branched at the top into 15-35 branches. Flowering stalks are 6½-13' (2-4 m) tall. Individual flowers are yellow, 1-2" (3-6 cm) long, appearing from March to July.
Leaves Leaves are 3-6½' (1-2 m) long and 6-10" (15-25 cm) wide. They are smooth and very rigid, gray-green or bluish, with dark brown teeth along the edges. 3-6½' (1-2 m) long and 6-10" (15-25 cm) wide. They are smooth and very rigid, gray-green or bluish, with bold white stripes and dark brown teeth along the edges. 8-16" (20-40 cm) long and 1¾-3" (5-8 cm) wide, grayish or bluish green, with toothed edges, and often with bands of varying color across the width of the leaves.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 8a-11

USDA Zones: 8-11

Type Wild Cultivar Wild

 

 
Agave karatto

Agave lechuguilla

Agave parrasana
Common Name

Dagger Log

Lechuguilla

Agave
Plant Rosettes are 8-10' (2.4-3 m) around. Found in Antigua and Barbuda. Rosette is 10-18" (25-45 cm) tall and 16-27" (40-68 cm) around, composed of 8-60 leaves, but usually around 20. It often produces “offsets”—new nearby plants. Rosettes are small, symmetrical blue-gray balls are 30-36" (76-91 cm) in diameter.
Flowers Flowering spike is up to 18' (5.5 m) feet high, multiply branched near the top. Flowers are yellow. Baby plants form in place of the spent flowers. Flower stalk is 6½-16' (2-5 m) high, blooms with red- or purple-shaded yellow flowers. Flower spike 9½-13' (3-4 m) high, split into 12-15 branches at the top; the open flowers are yellow, tinged with red or purple.
Leaves Dagger-like, medium green, up to 3' (1 m) long, with sharp tips and small teeth along the edges. Thick, curved, and tipped with sharp spines (hence the name “shin dagger”). They have irregularly spaced teeth on the leaf edges. Leaves are short, wide, nearly round, with spines along the edges. The leaves are textured with patterns and color variations that look like impressions from nearby leaves.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 9b-11

USDA Zones: 7-10

USDA Zones: 8b-10b
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

 
Agave parryi

Agave parryi var. parryi

Agave parviflora
Common Name

Barrel Agave

Century Plant

Smallflower Agave
Plant Rosettes reach 24" (60 cm) tall and 3' (91 cm) around, and resemble giant artichokes. Rosettes reach 24" (60 cm) tall and 3' (91 cm) around, and resemble giant artichokes. Small, 4-6" (10-15 cm) tall and 6-8" (15-20 cm) around. They may be solitary plants or growing in dense tufts that probably originated from a single plant.
Flowers   Stalk is 11-20' (3.4-6.1 m) high, with 18-30 branches, each with bright lemon yellow flowers. Flowering is from June to August. Yellow flowers appear atop a spike 3-6' (91-182 cm) tall.
Leaves 10-16" (25-40 cm) long and 3-5" (7.6-12 cm) wide, wide and flat or somewhat oval in shape, tapering to a sharp dark tan, brown, or black tip. They are smooth and rigid, about ½-¾" (1.3-1.9 cm) thick, edged with teeth, light grayish- or bluish-green. 10-16" (25-40 cm) long and 3-5" (7.6-12 cm) wide, wide and flat or somewhat oval in shape, tapering to a sharp dark tan, brown, or black tip. They are smooth and rigid, about ½-¾" (1.3-1.9 cm) thick, edged with teeth, light grayish- or bluish-green. 2-4" (5-10 cm) long and less than ½" (1.3 cm) wide, dark green, with white imprints from the bud. Short, curly white filaments like those in yuccas are present.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 9-11

Type Wild Wild Wild

 

 
Agave salmiana

Agave shawii

Agave stricta
Common Name

Pulque Agave

Shaw’s Agave

Rabo de León
Plant 5-6' (1.5-1.8 m) tall and 9½-13' (3-4 m) wide, with 20-30 leaves at the base. Rosettes can reach 3' (91 cm) in height and 5' (1.5 m) around. Plants may produce offsets, forming colonies. Plants look like hedgehogs, with hundreds of densely packed leaves, and often grow in colonies. Forms rounded mounds up to 24" (60 cm) high and 3' (1 m) around.
Flowers Stalks are 23-26' (7-8 m) high, branched near the top into 15-20 branches. Stalk is up to 12' (3.7 m) high, with branching flowers at the top that are yellow or reddish. Spike is crooked, 5-8' (1.5-2.4 m) tall, with reddish-purple flowers that bloom between July and August.
Leaves 3-6½' (1-2 m) long and 10-14" (25-36 cm) wide, dark green to bluish gray-green. Leaf edges have fairly large teeth. Leaves are up to 24" (60 cm) long and 10" (25 cm) wide. Teeth may or may not be present along leaf edges, varying even in a single plant. 10-20" (25-50 cm) long and ¼-½" (6.3-12 mm) around. In cross section, the leaves are rhomboidal: like a skewed rectangle, but with top and bottom depressed. Flowers form crooked spikes up to 8' (2.4 m) in height.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 8b-11

USDA Zones: 9b-10

USDA Zones: 9b-10
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

 
Agave tequilana

Agave victoriae-reginae

Agave vilmoriniana
Common Name

Blue Agave

Queen Victoria Agave

Octopus Agave
Plant Rosette is 4-6' (1.2-1.8 m) tall. Unlike most agaves, the rosette is on top of a very short stem, less than 6" (15 cm) tall and looking a little like a crushed pineapple. Commonly cultivated for tequila and as a natural sweetener, also popular with gardeners. Rosettes are fairly small, 20-28" (50-70 cm) around. They consist of a tight ball of stiff leaves with white edges. Rosette is up to 3' (91 cm) high and 5' (1.5 m) around; leaves resemble the waving tentacles of an octopus.
Flowers Spike is 16-20' (4.9-6.1 m) tall, with 20-25 branches. Flowers are green, with red stamens. Spike 10-13' (3-4.0 m) high, the upper half of which contains cream-colored flowers, with a touch of red/purple. Spike is 10-16' (3-4.9 m) in height. Flowers are yellow-white to yellow.
Leaves Rigid, swordlike, blue-gray or green-gray leaves form a nearly perfect circle. Leaves are lined with regularly spaced teeth, and are 35-47" (88-119 cm) long and 3-5" (7.6-12 cm) wide. Triangular in cross-section, 6-8" (15-20 cm) long and 1½-2½" (3.8-6.3 cm) wide. Crescent-shaped in cross section.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 9b-11

USDA Zones: 7b-11
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

Agave description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Aug 2013.

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Agave

Century Plant (Agave americana) · 5/24/2009 · Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ