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[
Agave shrevei is a taxonomic complex currently (2020) treated as comprising three subspecies. It is in need of more research for clarifying the nomenclature status[
Common Name: Lecheguilla Ceniza
Agave shrevei is an evergreen, stemless, succulent plant forming a rosette of leaves that can be 50cm tall and 70cm in diameter. The leaves on mature plants can each be 20 - 60cm long and 8 - 18cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 2.5 - 5 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die. However, the plant usually produces a number of young plants around its base that will develop as new plants[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of fibre. It is occasionally cultivated within its native range as a food crop[
Agave shrevei has a wide range, is locally abundant and even though the species has several threats, these are not sufficient to trigger a threatened category. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2019)[
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[
Southwestern N. America - western and northern Mexico (Sonora, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Jalisco and Durango)
Open, rocky, calcareous slopes of Oak woodland and Pine-Oak forests; at elevations from 930 - 2,720 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Agave species are found mainly in the arid and semi-arid regions of southwestern N. America, especially in Mexico. Many species can withstand at least a few degrees of frost and will succeed outdoors in warm temperate climates, but only in drier regions and where soils are very well-drained.
Agave species generally require a sunny position, succeeding in most soils of medium-fertility so long as they are very well-drained. Most species are undemanding as to the soil pH, though those found in the wild on limestone soils will grow better in neutral to alkaline conditions. Plants are generally very tolerant of dry conditions and of drought[
Most Agave species are monocarpic, individual rosettes living for a number of years without flowering before sending up an often very large flowering stem and then dying after flowering and setting seed. This species, however, produces a number of new rosettes from suckers or offsets towards the end of its lifespan and these new plants will continue to grow after the death of the parent plant.
Individual plants take about 7 - 15 years in their native habitat, considerably longer in colder climates, before flowering[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
The heart of the plant is slow-baked and eaten, or made into a 'bread' or mashed and fermented as an alcaholic beverage[
]. A sweet species, the baked heart is used for eating and also employed in making mezcal[
Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage that potentially can be made from almost any species of Agave, though only around fifty are used regularly and seven species are especially favoured. Mature plants are harvested from the wild, their leaves and roots are removed and the remaining 'hearts' are baked (often in an earth oven), then mashed and the resulting liquid allowed to ferment for a few days before being distilled to produce mezcal.
Flowering stem - cooked[
Small plants are used for medicinal purposes[
The fibre from the leaves was used traditionally to make a wide range of items including hunting nets, baskets, rope and sandals[
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[
Offsets and suckers can be potted up at any time they are available. Keep in a warm greenhouse until they are well established[
Bulbils, where produced, are an easy method of propagation. Simply pot them up and plant out at the beginning of a growing season when they are 10cm or more tall.