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 franceschiana Trel. ex A.Berge
rAgave neglecta Small
Common Name: Maguey Liso
Agave weberi is an evergreen, short-stemmed (from 40 - 100cm), succulent plant forming an open rosette of leaves that can be 120 - 140cm tall and 200 - 300cm in diameter. The leaves on mature plants can each be 110 - 160cm long and 12 - 18cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 6.5 - 8 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 cultivated as a fibre crop and to make the fermented beverage 'pulque', sometimes also for making the distilled beverage 'mezcal'[
]. It is a huge, highly attractive ornamental with gracefully arching leaves[
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 - northeast Mexico.
Only known as a result of cultivation, it is naturalized in southern Texas, where it grows in sandy places with grasses and low shrubs; at elevations from 100 - 300 metres[
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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 during 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[
The plant sometimes produces bulbils along the flowering stems and these can be used for propagation[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
The plant is used for 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.
A sweet sap can be obtained from the plant - it is used as a drink, for making a sweet syrup and also for making pulque[
]. Pulque is a milk-coloured, somewhat viscous, alcoholic beverage that produces a light foam. It is made by fermenting the sap of certain types of Agave plants. About six of these species are considered best for use in producing pulque.
Plants take around 12 years from seed before they start to produce their flowering stem - this is then cut out to leave a depressed surface 30 - 45cm in diameter in the centre of the plant in which the sap collects. This liquid is harvested twice a day from the plant, with yields of up to 5 - 6 litres per day, and the plant can continue producing for up to one year before dying. Total yields can reach 600 litres from good plants. The sap can be drunk without fermenting it, though most is used for fermentaton.
The plant is used for making living fences[
A fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making cordage etc[
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.