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Agave lechuguilla

Agave lechuguilla Torr.

Agave lophantha Schiede var. poselgeri (Salm-Dyck) A. Berger

Agave poselgeri Salm-Dyck

Agave multilineata Baker

Agave heteracantha Hort.

Agave univittata var. tamaulipasana

Agave univittata var. subcanescens

Agave univittata var. gracilior

Agave univittata var. brevifolia

Agave univittata var. caerulescens

Agave univittata var. angustifolia

Agave lophantha var. tamaulipasana

Agave lophantha var. subcanescens

Agave lophantha var. poselgeri

Agave lophantha var. pallida

Agave lophantha var. caerulescens

Agave lophantha var. brevifolia

Agave lophantha var. angustifolia

Agave lophantha var. gracilior

Agave caerulescens

Lechuguilla, Shin Dagger

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”
SpecieslechuguillaNamed for the Lechuguilla Desert in Arizona, one of the places where these are found

About plant names...

Lechuguilla is a common North American native species. It is an indicator species of the Chihuahuan Desert. Indigenous cultures relied on this plant’s saponins to produce soap, as this 1922 report describes. This is a highly variable species, as is implied by the many past scientific names that have since been found to be the same species.

Identification: The leaf 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. Leaves are thick, curved, and tipped with sharp spines (hence the name “shin dagger”). They have irregularly spaced teeth on the leaf edges. After about 30 years, the lechuguilla grows a stalk 6½-16' (2-5 m) high, blooms with red- or purple-shaded yellow flowers, and keels over dead. (This rather extreme approach to flowering is shared by most agaves.)

Edibility: Poisonous Skull & Crossbones Several agents in lechuguilla make it unpalatable to people; but sheep, goats and sometimes cattle are poisoned when they attempt to eat it. This is easily avoided by making sure more desirable forage is available.

Agave lechuguilla (Lechuguilla, Shin Dagger)

Agave lechuguilla, Garcia, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. • 9/7/2005 • by Carlos Velazco

References:

Irish, Mary & Irish, Gary, Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants: A Gardener’s Guide, Timber Press, 2000, p. 132

Online References:

Agave lechuguilla on Desert-tropicals.com

Agave lechuguilla on Chihuahuan Desert Plants

Agave lechuguilla on www.explorenm.com

Agave lechuguilla on eFloras

Agave lechuguilla on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database

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

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Agave lechuguilla (Lechuguilla, Shin Dagger)

The tall foreground plant is the lechuguilla; the cactus behind is probably Engelmann prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii). · 11/20/2010 · Living Desert, near Carlsbad Caverns, Elev. ~3200', NM

Range: Zones 7-10:

About this map...