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[
Manfreda brunnea (S.Watson) Rose
Polianthes brunnea (S.Watson) Shinners
Agave brunnea is a stemless, evergreen perennial plant growing from a bulbous rootstock with fleshy roots. It forms a cluster of narrow leaves around 10 - 33cm tall with flowering stems around 70 - 130cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and a soap. The fleshy roots of this and several other closely related species used to be highly valued for their use as a soap. They were sold in large quantities in local markets all round Mexico[
]. The plant is grown as an ornamental.
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[
Southern N. America - northern Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango)
Dry hills or desert plains, volcanic or alluvial alkaline soils (sandy or gravelly clay), in desert scrub, grasslands, and low pine forests; at elevations from 1,000 - 1,700 metres[
|Other Uses Rating
Requires a sunny position, succeeding in most soils of medium-fertility so long as they are well-drained. Most sspecies are undemanding as to the soil pH, though those found in the wild on limestone soils will grow better in neutral to alkaline conditions. A moderately drought-tolerant species, it grows best with moderate amounts of rain, especially in the growing seasonl[
The plant definitely requires a dry winter to early spring rest[
The plant has been used as a remedy for snakebites[
]. The bruised leaves were put into aguardiente (any distilled liquor) and the alcohol extract applied externally. Another version of this same treatment called for a powder to be precipitated from the extract and the powder used as a plaster over the wound[
The leaves, corm and bulb have been used as an antidote to snake bites[
A liquid soap can be made from the saponin-rich rhizome[
]. The rhizome was cut into pieces and soaked for several days. The rhizomes and water together were used, especially for washing woollens[
]. The rhizomes can be dried for storage and then grated as needed[
The crushed corm is used as a laundry soap or as a substitute for shampoo[
Seed - surface sow in a light position, mid spring in a warm greenhouse. 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 in the greenhouse until they are at least 15cm tall. Plant out at the beginning of the growing season, and give some protection from the cold for at least their first few winters[
Division in the dormant season.