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 wocomahi is an evergreen, stemless, succulent plant forming a rosette of leaves that can be 80 - 130cm tall and 150 - 200cm in diameter. The leaves on mature plants can each be 30 - 90cm long and 9 - 25cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 3 - 5 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of materials.
Agave wocomahi is a relatively widespread species, its uses are local and for subsistence, and its populations are stable. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2019)[
The Western Tarahumara use Agave vilmoriniana, which is rich in sapogenins, and Agave bovicornuta and Agave wocomahi, the toxic constituents of which are unknown, to stupefy fish trapped in rock enclosures or pools in rivers. The plants are mashed on a rock, the juices are allowed to drain into the river and then the mashed plants are thrown into the water. Several plants are needed to stupefy the trapped fish which, upon reaching the surface, are collected[
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 Mexico (southeastern Sonora, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, Nayarit, Zacatecas and Jalisco)
Rocky, calcareous, open mountain slopes in pine-oak forests; at elevations from 900 - 2,750 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
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.
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 central portion of the rosette is baked and eaten[
]. A sweet flavour, the raw plant is rich in starch, but a slow baking converts this starch into sugars[
]. The cooked plant can be dried for later use[
The plant is used for making mezcal[
]. Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage that can be made from almost any species of Agave, though around 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.
The baked rosette can be made into a fermented drink known as 'sugui.'[
Flowers - cooked and eaten like squash[
The fibres obtained from the leaves are used locally for making rope, cords and packsaddle pads[
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.