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Agave americana

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Title: Agave americana  
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Subject: Maguey worm, List of flora of the Lower Colorado River Valley, Aloe, Barbecue in Texas, Our Lady of Guadalupe
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Agave americana

Century plant or maguey
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus: Agave
Species: A. americana
Binomial name
Agave americana
  • Agave altissima Zumagl.
  • Agave americana var. marginata Trel.
  • Agave americana var. mediopicta Trel.
  • Agave americana var. picta (Salm-Dyck) A.Terracc.
  • Agave americana f. picta (Salm-Dyck) Voss
  • Agave americana var. striata Trel.
  • Agave americana var. subtilis (Trel.) Valenz.-Zap. & Nabhan
  • Agave americana var. theometel (Zuccagni) A.Terracc.
  • Agave americana var. variegata Hook.
  • Agave americana f. virginica Voss
  • Agave communis Gaterau
  • Agave complicata Trel. ex Ochot.
  • Agave cordillerensis Lodé & Pino
  • Agave felina Trel.
  • Agave fuerstenbergii Jacobi
  • Agave gracilispina (Rol.-Goss.) Engelm. ex Trel.
  • Agave ingens A.Berger
  • Agave melliflua Trel.
  • Agave milleri Haw.
  • Agave ornata Jacobi
  • Agave picta Salm-Dyck
  • Agave ramosa Moench
  • Agave salmiana var. gracilispina Rol.-Goss
  • Agave subtilis Trel.
  • Agave subzonata Trel.
  • Agave theometel Zuccagni
  • Agave variegata Steud.
  • Agave virginica Mill. 1768, non L. 1753
  • Agave zonata Trel.
Agave americana in bloom in Portugal. The flower stalk may reach up to 8 m (26 ft) in height

Agave americana, common names centuryplant,[4] maguey, or American aloe,[5] is a species of flowering plant in the family Agavaceae, originally native to Mexico, and the United States in Arizona and Texas. Today it cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant. It has become naturalized in many regions including the West Indies, parts of South America, the southern Mediterranean Basin, parts of Africa, India, China, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia. [6]

Despite the common name "American aloe", it is not closely related to plants in the genus Aloe.

Blossoms of Maguey Agave


  • Description 1
  • Taxonomy and naming 2
  • Cultivation 3
    • Subspecies and Cultivars 3.1
  • Uses 4
    • Culinary 4.1
    • Heraldry 4.2
  • References 5
  • See also 6
  • External links 7


Although it is called the century plant, it typically lives only 10 to 30 years. It has a spread of about 6–10 ft (1.8–3.0 m) with gray-green leaves of 3–5 ft (0.9–1.5 m) long, each with a prickly margin and a heavy spike at the tip that can pierce to the bone. Near the end of its life, the plant sends up a tall, branched stalk, laden with yellow blossoms, that may reach a total height of up to 25–30 ft (8–9 m) tall.

Its common name derives from its semelparous nature of flowering only once at the end of its long life. The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers or adventitious shoots from the base, which continue its growth.[7]

Taxonomy and naming

Agave americana was one of the many species described by Carl Linnaeus in the 1753 edition of Species Plantarum, with the binomial name that is still used today.[1]


Agave americana is cultivated as an ornamental plant for the large dramatic form of mature plants - for modernist, drought tolerant, and desert style cactus gardens - among many planted settings.[8] The plants can be evocative of 18th-19th-century Spanish colonial and Mexican provincial eras in the Southwestern United States, California, and xeric Mexico.

Subspecies and Cultivars

Two subspecies and two varieties of Agave americana are recognized by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families:[9]

  • Agave americana subsp. americana
  • Agave americana subsp. protamericana Gentry
  • Agave americana var. expansa (Jacobi) Gentry
  • Agave americana var. oaxacensis Gentry

Cultivars include:[10][11]

  • 'Marginata' agm[12] with yellow stripes along the margins of each leaf
  • 'Mediopicta' agm[13] with a broad cream central stripe
  • 'Mediopicta Alba' agm[14] with a central white band
  • 'Mediopicta Aurea' with a central yellow band
  • 'Striata' with multiple yellow to white stripes along the leaves
  • 'Variegata' agm[15] with white edges on the leaves.

(those marked agm, as well as the parent species,[16] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit).


Tools used to obtain agave's ixtle fibers, at the Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City D.F.


If the flower stem is cut without flowering, a sweet liquid called aguamiel ("honey water") gathers in the heart of the plant. This may be fermented to produce the drink called pulque. The leaves also yield fibers, known as pita, which are suitable for making rope, matting, coarse cloth and are used for embroidery of leather in a technique known as piteado. Both pulque and maguey fiber were important to the economy of pre-Columbian Mexico.

In the tequila-producing regions of Mexico, agaves are called mezcales. The high-alcohol product of agave distillation is called mezcal; Agave americana is one of several agaves used for distillation. A mezcal called tequila, is produced from Agave tequilana, commonly called "blue agave". There are many different types of mezcal some of which may be flavored with the very pungent mezcal worm.[17] Mezcal and tequila, although also produced from agave plants, are different from pulque in their technique for extracting the sugars from the heart of the plant, and in that they are distilled spirits. In mezcal and tequila production, the sugars are extracted from the piñas (or hearts) by heating them in ovens, rather than by collecting aguamiel from the plant's cut stalk. Thus if one were to distill pulque, it would not be a form of mezcal, but rather a different drink.

Agave nectar, also called agave syrup, is marketed as a natural form of sugar with a low glycemic index that is due to its high fructose content.[18]


The plant figures in the coat of arms of Don Diego de Mendoza, a Native American governor of the village of Ajacuba, Hidalgo state.[19]


  1. ^ a b L."Agave americana". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2005-05-23. Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  2. ^ Tropicos Agave americana
  3. ^ Plant list Agave americana
  4. ^ "BSBI List 2007" (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 2014-10-17. 
  5. ^ Bailey, L.H.; Bailey, E.Z.; the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. 1976. Hortus third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. Macmillan, New York.
  6. ^ Irish, Gary (2000). Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide. Timber Press. pp. 94–97.  
  7. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136.  
  8. ^ (American century plant)"Agave americana". Native Plant Database. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  9. ^ Search for "Agave americana", "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families".  
  10. ^ Vermeulen, Nico. 1998. The Complete Encyclopedia of Container Plants, pp. 36-37. Netherlands: Rebo International. ISBN 90-366-1584-4
  11. ^ Royal Horticultural Society Database : Agave americana, retrieved 2011-07-28
  12. ^ "' 'MarginataAgave americana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 2015-06-17. 
  13. ^ "' 'MediopictaAgave americana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  14. ^ "' 'Mediopicta AlbaAgave americana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  15. ^ "' 'VariegataAgave americana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  16. ^ "Agave americana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  17. ^ Escamoles and Maguey Worms;
  18. ^ Oudhia, P., 2007. Agave americana L. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
  19. ^

See also

External links

  • (American century plant)Agave americanaUSDA Plants Profile for
  • Century Plant Data Sheet (Agave americana)
  • Agave americanaLady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Information Network (NPIN) —
  • — UC Photos galleryAgave americana
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