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Useful Temperate Plants

Agave utahensis

Engelm.

Asparagaceae


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[
1855
Title
Two new species of Manfreda Salisb. (Agavaceae) from the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
Publication
Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 135(2), 2008, pp. 168-177
Author
Hernández-Sandoval L., Orellana R. & Carnevali G.
Website
http://dx.doi.org/10.3159/08-RA-023.1
Publisher
 
Year
2008
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

+ Synonyms

Agave eborispina Hester

Agave haynaldii utahensis (Engelm.) N.Terracc.

Agave kaibabensis McKelvey

Agave nevadensis (Engelm. ex Greenm. & Roush) Hester

Agave newberyi Engelm.

Agave scaphoidea Greenm. & Ronst.

Common Name: Century Plant

Agave utahensis
Plants in native habitat in Nevada
Photograph by: Forest and Kim Starr
Creative Commons License
Agave utahensis Agave utahensis Agave utahensis Agave utahensis Agave utahensis Agave utahensis Agave utahensis Agave utahensis

General Information

Agave utahensis is an evergreen, stemless, succulent plant forming a compact rosette of leaves that can be 15 - 60cm tall and 25 - 100cm in diameter. Around 70 - 80 leaves are produced on mature plants, each of which can be 15 - 50cm long and 2 - 3cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 170 - 400cm 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[
1844
Title
Agave Agavaceae
Publication
Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons, pp 21-311
Author
Thiede J.
Website
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-56486-8_111
Publisher
Springer Nature
Year
2020
ISBN
 
Description
 
].
The plant was very important for the native north Americans, providing them with food, medicines and a range of materials. It is much less used at the present time. The plant is often grown as an ornamental , especially in xeriscape gardens.
Agave utahensis has a relatively large range, stable overall populations and, even though it is affected by threats in part of its range, it occurs in sevaral protected areas. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2020)[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
]. Although generally considered least concern, it should be noted that illegal
collection of the variety Agave utahensis eborispina for ornamental use has resulted in high levels of removal of mature individuals of this portion of the population[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Known Hazards

The plants have a very sharp and tough spine at the tip of each leaf. They need to be carefully sited in the garden.
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[
1846
Title
The Agaves of Baja California
Publication
Occasional Papers of the California Academy of Sciences, No. 130,
Author
Gentry H.S.
Publisher
California Academy of Sciences; San Francisco
Year
1978
ISBN
0068-5461
Description
 
].

Botanical References

71
Title
A California Flora.
Publication
 
Author
Munz P.A. & Keck D.D.
Publisher
University of California Press; Los Angeles
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent flora but no pictures. Not for the casual reader.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

South-western N. America - California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona

Habitat

Dry stony limestone slopes, at elevations from 600 - 2,280 metres[
71
Title
A California Flora.
Publication
 
Author
Munz P.A. & Keck D.D.
Publisher
University of California Press; Los Angeles
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent flora but no pictures. Not for the casual reader.
,
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].
Calcareous or sandstone outcrops in desert scrub, pinyon-juniper, or conifer woodlands; at elevations from 700 - 2,500 metres[
1844
Title
Agave Agavaceae
Publication
Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons, pp 21-311
Author
Thiede J.
Website
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-56486-8_111
Publisher
Springer Nature
Year
2020
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

Properties

Conservation StatusLeast Concern
Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Perennial
Height2.00 m
PollinatorsMoths, Bats
Cultivation StatusOrnamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

Agave utahensis is a native of arid and semi-arid climates. Plants are only hardy in the milder areas of the temperate zone, and even then need to be sited carefully to prevent rot from excessive moisture. They generally grow well in Mediterranean climates. Plants from northern and/or high elevation populations of ssp. utahensis, ssp. kaibabensis and var. eborispina may tolerate temperatures down to between -21 to -29°c, and may survive outdoors in central Europe nearly without rain protection[
1844
Title
Agave Agavaceae
Publication
Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons, pp 21-311
Author
Thiede J.
Website
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-56486-8_111
Publisher
Springer Nature
Year
2020
ISBN
 
Description
 
]. Plants also experience snow in their native environment, though this can have the effect of insulating their base and roots from the cold[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Requires a very well-drained soil and a sunny position[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Agave species are monocarpic, individual plants living for a number of years without flowering then sending up an often very large flowering stem and then dying after flowering and setting seed. The plants of most species, however, normally produce a number of new plants from suckers during their lifespan and these new plants will continue the life-cycle. Over time, some plants can form extensive clonal colonies by this means[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
Individual plants take about 7 - 15 years in their native habitat, considerably longer in colder climates, before flowering[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
This plant is widely used by the native people in its wild habitat, it has a wide range of uses.
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
233
Title
Perennial Garden Plants
Publication
 
Author
Thomas. G. S.
Publisher
J. M. Dent & Sons, London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0 460 86048 8
Description
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
].

Edible Uses

The heart of the plant is very rich in saccharine matter and can be eaten when baked[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
,
105
Title
Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Tanaka. T. & Nakao S.
Publisher
Keigaku Publishing; Tokyo
Year
1976
ISBN
-
Description
The most comprehensive list of edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
,
177
Title
Plants for Human Consumption.
Publication
 
Author
Kunkel. G.
Publisher
Koeltz Scientific Books
Year
1984
ISBN
3874292169
Description
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of Latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
]. Sweet and delicious, but rather fibrous[
213
Title
Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
Publication
 
Author
Weiner. M. A.
Publisher
Ballantine Books
Year
1980
ISBN
0-449-90589-6
Description
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
]. It is partly below ground. It can be dried for future use or soaked in water to produce a flavourful beverage[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
].

Seed - ground into a flour[
85
Title
Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains.
Publication
 
Author
Harrington. H. D.
Publisher
University of New Mexico Press
Year
1967
ISBN
0-8623-0343-9
Description
A superb book. Very readable, it gives the results of the authors experiments with native edible plants.
,
161
Title
Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237.
Publication
 
Author
Yanovsky. E.
Publisher
U.S. Depf of Agriculture.
Year
 
ISBN
-
Description
A comprehensive but very terse guide. Not for the casual reader.
].

Flower stalk - roasted[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
].

Root - cooked[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
].

Sap from the cut flowering stems is used as a syrup[
177
Title
Plants for Human Consumption.
Publication
 
Author
Kunkel. G.
Publisher
Koeltz Scientific Books
Year
1984
ISBN
3874292169
Description
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of Latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
]. The sap can also be tapped by boring a hole into the middle of the plant at the base of the flowering stem[
213
Title
Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
Publication
 
Author
Weiner. M. A.
Publisher
Ballantine Books
Year
1980
ISBN
0-449-90589-6
Description
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
]. It can be fermented into 'Mezcal', a very potent alcoholic drink[
213
Title
Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
Publication
 
Author
Weiner. M. A.
Publisher
Ballantine Books
Year
1980
ISBN
0-449-90589-6
Description
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
]. Mezcal is a distilled drink, made from the baked hearts of the agave plant. The fermented sap mentioned above is more commonly called 'pulque' in Mexico, where it is commonly produced from a number of Agave species and has a much lower alcohol content[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Medicinal

The sap is antiseptic, diuretic and laxative[
21
Title
The Herb Book.
Publication
 
Author
Lust. J.
Publisher
Bantam books
Year
1983
ISBN
0-553-23827-2
Description
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
].

The plant contains steroidal saponins which are under research for use in the treatment of certain cancers[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Other Uses

The leaves contain saponins and an extract of them can be used as a soap[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
]. It is best obtained by chopping up the leaves and then simmering them in water - do not boil for too long or this will start to break down the saponins[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

A very strong fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making rope, coarse fabrics etc[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
,
92
Title
Early Uses of Californian Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Balls. E. K.
Publisher
University of California Press
Year
1975
ISBN
0-520-00072-2
Description
A nice readable book.
].
To make hair brushes and brushes for cleaning, the dried matter of a dead and rotten leaf was knocked free from the fibres, which were then bent in two. the upper end of this brush was wrapped with a cord and the bent portion was covered with a cloth. The loose fibres were cut to the right length and hardened by burning the ends[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].
A paper can also be made from the fibre in the leaves[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
].

The thorns on the leaves are used as pins and needles[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
].

The dried flowering stems are used as a waterproof thatch[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
] and as a razor strop[
89
Title
Flowers of the Mediterranean.
Publication
 
Author
Polunin. O. and Huxley. A.
Publisher
Hogarth Press
Year
1987
ISBN
0-7012-0784-1
Description
A very readable pocket flora that is well illustrated. Gives some information on plant uses.
].

Propagation

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[
133
Title
Growing from Seed. Volume 1.
Publication
 
Author
Rice. G. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1987
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. 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[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Offsets and suckers can be potted up at any time they are available. Keep in a warm greenhouse until they are well established[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
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.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2023-01-28. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Agave+utahensis>

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