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Notes index

Notes on Agave

century plant flowers AGAVE - Agave sp. Bulgarian: Stoletnik. Russian: Agava. Nahuatl: Metl. Agaave, Agawa, Aloes, Century Plant, Centuryplant, Lechuguilla, Maguey, Maguey de Pulque, Maguey Silvestre, Mescal, Piteira, Tatemado. The classification of these species is a mess, partly because so many species intergrade. This is an important food source during much of the year. The short stem tissue is rich in starch and sugar. The species that produce sapogenins are not edible. The tender flowering shoot or stalk before flowering of most species is edible. Cut it when it reaches at least six feet and roast in a pit in the same manner as mescal heads. Mescal heads are pit-roasted on hot stones covered with trimmed leaves and fibers, in turn covered with dirt. A fire is built on top of this as well, and the entire roasted for three days. This process is called Barbacoa or Llatema. They taste like quince. Another authority says the heads are discarded and the rest eaten. The basal crown is baked for a day and eaten. The flowers are edible in salad. New shoots are baked to the consistency of candy. The seeds are made into flour. The stalk is mashed and made into cakes or boiled into a beverage. The sweet sap of the young flower stalk is rich in sugar. The unfermented drink made from this plant is called Aguamiel. Pulque is fermented, and Mescal and Tequila are distilled. The crushed and chewed leaves are an emergency source of water. The nectar in the blossoms is gathered and drunk.


The root juice is purgative. The leaf juice is slightly caustic. It is antiseptic for the stomach and intestines. It is seriously disinfectant and will eliminate rotten matter from the intestines. Use it for pulmonary tuberculosis; do not use it excessively, as it is very laxative. Tonic, disinfective, and stimulating for falling hair: steep the leaf fibers in water for a day, and wash with the water, and apply to the affected part. Pound and salt the leaves and apply as a poultice on the wounds of animals. The new growth is astringent and used to make a syrup against dysentery. Apply the interior of the leaves over the abdomen to promote defecation and over the bladder to promote urination; this method is dangerous during pregnancy. The consumption of Aguamiel lends color to the cheeks which is superior to that of rouge.

Agave fiber is woven into cloth and used to make blankets, traps and nets. It has commercial value. The charcoal was used for tattooing. The leaves are cut and trimmed to feed livestock and flower stalks are eaten by deer and cattle. Eating the flowering stalk will tend to make the species die out; most species die immediately after one flowering. What determines whether or not a species will die out is the location of the flower stalk: a terminal bud or flower stalk will mean a dead plant. If the bud or flower stalk is coming out of the plant dead center, it is terminal; if it comes out slightly to the side, it is lateral. See Aloe, Yucca whipplei under Yucca.


A. angustifolia, A. cerulata, A. colorata, A. fortiflora, and A. subsimplex are all classified as Agave, while A. chrysoglossa, A. felgeri, A. pelona, and A. schottii are classified as Littaea. The Agaves are generally used as food plants. They are harvested right after winter and eaten as a vegetable; they are quite sweet, and regarded as a source of sugar. The plants with an emerging inflorescence are selected. The others are bitter. The plants that will soon flower have smaller and narrower leaves toward the center. The leaf bases and hearts were eaten. All parts of the plant must be thoroughly cooked before eating, because they are caustic in the raw state. The flowers and nectar are edible. Roast the hearts in a pit overnight. The young inflorescence is also cooked for food. The leaves of Littaea are bitter and not considered edible, but the hearts (meristematic tissue) of the larger ones are edible. The juice of certain Mexican species is emmenagogic, laxative, and diuretic. It is toxic to livestock. The leaves are poisonous if eaten raw. The juice is irritating to most of the skin, but not necessarily the hands. Maguey fibers are used for various purposes. The fibers of some species are used to make blankets.

A. aktites. Lechuguilla. This species resembles A. pacifica and A. datilyo. It grows on sand dunes near the ocean. The thick stems or heads, which will form only in this environment, are sweet and good to eat pit baked. There is a lot of starch in the meristem. The plants contain only a negligible amount of sapogenin.


A. americana (A. abrupta, albomarginata, asperrima, caeciliana, carchariodonta, chisosensis, complicata, consideranti, convallis, dissimulans, ensifera, expansa, expatriata, felina, fernandi-regis, franzosini, ghiesbreghtii, glomeruliflora, gracilipes, gracilispina, havardiana, heteracantha, horrida, huehueteca, ingens, inopinabilis, kerchovei, kochii, lecheguilla, lechuguilla, lophantha, lurida, macroacantha, marmorata, melliflua, mezortillo, multilineata, neomexicana, nickelsii, noli-tangere, obscura, peacockii, picta, poselgeri, pumila, purpusorum, rasconensis, roezliana, scabra, splendens, subzonata, todaroi, univittata, verae-crucis, vera-cruz, vernae, victoriae-reginae, vittata, xylonacantha, zonata): Agave d'Amerique, American Aloe, Cacaya, Century Plant, Common American Agave, Huiscole, Lechuguilla, Maguey, Maguey Cenisa, Maguey Curandero, Maguey de Pulque, Maguey Meco, Maguey Pichomel, Mescal, Pisomel, Rabo de Leon (lion slobber), Saftschopf. Russian: Stoletnik. Mayan: Capulixtl. Nahuatl: Tlalometl, Pitzometl. Ornamental, has pharmacological properties. All of these plants are combined into one on the basis of the fact that they interbreed. These plants are related to A. difformis. A. franzosini is rare; its origin is unknown. A. victoriae-reginae is very cold-hardy. This is a soil binder that will grow on limestone or in caliche and is used on banks. Most varieties are frost sensitive. Some varieties form suckers readily, which are generally smaller than the parent plant. Some varieties do not cultivate well. Agave americana requires 18 to 20 years to mature, so it is not very useful. Caution: the sharp leaves can impale a man or a horse, or puncture the tires of a vehicle.


The flowers are edible. The heads and leaf bases are eaten cooked and charred and are very sweet. The plant yields one to two gallons daily of saccharine juice which is used, however, to make pulque and mescal. It is also extracted to make a liquor called Dulce de Cabuya (Chahuarmisqui). The juice, extracted from the leaves after roasting, is used to make a syrup which is used as a pectoral. These plants are a possible source of steroids. They contain smilogenin, a steroid precursor. The leaves contain bitter volatile oil, a rubbery resinous principle, chlorophyll, cellulose, malate acid of lime and other salts. They also contain substances that can be used for soap. Cut the leaf and pass it point first through rollers, then strain the juice. Put the juice in a shallow pain in the hot sun until it becomes thick. Then mix with lye ashes and make into balls. The soap will lather either with salt water or fresh. Or, pound the leaves in a mortar, and boil to reduce the volume of juice.

The fine, strong fibers henequen and sisal are derived from this species. They are also called Istle, Ixtle, or Tampico Fibre. They are used for rope, twine, net, woven materials, and making brushes. Use the bud fiber, and both mature and immature leaves. They are extracted from wild plants with hand tools. Bruise the leaves and steep in water and remove the fiber by beating the leaves. The leaves are used to scour pewter, utensils, and floors. The spongy material in the decayed stalk makes good tinder. The leaves of some varieties are eaten by cattle; others not. The ones that contain a saponin, called hepato-nephro-toxin, are poisonous to livestock. The toxin is activated by sunlight. The plant forms suckers readily, which are generally smaller than the parent plant.


The University of Arizona is experimenting with growing rows of these plants to see if it is practical to farm them commercially.

A. angustifolia (A. aboriginum, bergeri, deweyana, donnell-smithii, elongata, endlichiana, excelsa, ixtli, ixtloides, jacquiniana, kirchneriana, lespinassei, letonae, nivea, owenii, pacifica, prainiana, rubescens, sicaefolia, spectabilis, wightii, wrightii, yaquiana, zapupe): Maguey, Mescal, Mescal de Maguey, Zapupe Verde. Seri: Hamoc, Coptoj. This one resembles A. aktites, A. augustifolia, A. elongata, A. kirchneriana, and A. bergeri. A. collina may be a variety of A. angustifolia. The northern forms resist frost, but not the ones that grow in the tropics.


The plant has a high starch content which makes good eating. It is used to make Mescal Bacanora in Bacanora. The heads are edible pit baked but not delicious. It contains a maximum of _.2% of tecogenin, hecogenin, and chlorogenin. Different cultivars are good for food or fiber, which is strong and used for cordage. When the leaves are cut for fibers, the remaining plant has a trunk. The flower stalk can be used as a pole for gathering fruit from the tops of tall cacti such as Saguaro and Cardón. The seeds and flower buds were used to make necklaces. The flowers have much nectar and are well liked by insects and birds. This plant is widely cultivated.

A. antillarum: Antilles Agave, exotic. The alcoholic tincture is used to wash ulcers and gangrene. To make an ointment, mix a pound of the juice of the Karatas, sugared orange juice, and a half pound of Guaiacum officinale in eight ounces of hog's lard.

A. arizonica. This is a rare ornamental, which withstands frost.

A. aurea: Lechuguilla, Maguey. This plant resembles A. promontorii and A. capensis. The fiber is fine and good for spinning, but the yield is low.


A. bovicornuta (A. carol-schmidtii, crenata, guatemalensis, hookeri, inaequidens, megalacantha, mescal, seemanniana, tortispina): Bravo, Cowhorn Agave, Lechuguilla, Lechuguilla Verde, Maguey Bruto, Noriba. Tarahumara: Sapuli. Warihio: Sapari, Sabali, Sapuli. Ornamental. These plants are closely related to A. pygmae and A. hiemiflora. They have been confused with A. fenzliana, and resemble A. inaequidens and A. wocomahi. This plant requires cross-pollination, and does not produce suckers. It blooms only once and dies. The flowers are yellow-green. It tolerates frost, full sun, and little water. Water it in spring and fall, but in summer only enough to keep the leaves in good condition. It likes well drained soil. It is planted along fields.

The flowers of some varieties are washed and eaten, and used to make tortillas. The stems are pit baked. The distilled stem juice is used to make aguamiel and pulque, and mescal, also called Pisto. It is used in spite of the fact that it makes poor mescal.

Other varieties are used to stupefy fish. They have a caustic juice in the leaves which causes itching, dermatitis, burning, inflammation, and blistering. Do not wash it with soap. Dry it or wash it with clear water. These varieties contain little sapogenin. The toxic constituent has not been identified.

A. cantala (A. acuispina, candalabrum, cantula, flaccida, rumphii, vivipara, madagascariensis, Furcraea cantala, m.): Childing Agave, Maguey, Viviparous Agave. Exotic. This plant has good quality fiber, which is more valuable than sisal. The plant is not disease hardy, and is difficult to decorticate. The leaves are very prickly. It is used as a hedge plant.


A. cerulata (A. deserti, consociata, nelsonii, pringlei, dentiens): Century Plant, Desert Agave, Desert Mescal, Lechuguilla, Maguey, Mescal. Akimel: Aul. The fruit, which is edible, is called aut. Coahuila: A-mul: the plant. U-a-sil: sections of flowering stalk. Ya-mil: the leaves. Amul-sal-em: the yellow flowers. Seri: ?emme or Heme, Xica istj caitic "soft leaved things". Takic: Amul. The leaf is called Amupala, and the blossoms, Amusalem. This plant resembles A. subsimplex. The chromosome count for A. deserti is n = 30 or n = 59, the latter polyploid. The plant contains hecogenin, which is a sapogenin and a steroid, manogenin, tigogenin, and gitogenin. The average sapogenin content is _.66% to 1.5%. The content is _.6 to 1% in the fruit. The plant is edible but not excellent. It becomes edible after it has formed its pups, so gathering the plant does not prevent its reproduction. The edible portions of the plant can be harvested year round, but are best in January. The most delicious were the most fibrous ones. The ones with an oily film on the leaves is said to be bitter. The flowers, leaves, stalks, and cabbages are all edible. The stems or cabezas are eaten. They are called Mescales. Leaves at the base of the plant, or yellow leaves, are not eaten. The leaves are poisonous if eaten raw. They must be pit baked. The larvae of the Agave Skipper Butterfly (Megathymus stephousi) are also roasted on the leaves and eaten. Cut the tips of the leaves off first to keep from getting stuck with the spines. Then cut out the inflorescence, and then cut off the leaves, starting with the inner ones, at the base. Macerate the leaves and cook them in a fire. The flowers should be parboiled to get rid of the bitterness. The flowers, cabbages, and stalks should be thoroughly dried for storage of up to 5 years. The stalks are first made into cakes by pounding. The plant has been stored for 60 years, and was still edible. After storage, the flowers can be reboiled for eating. After April, the cabbages and stalks are full of sap. They are roasted in a pit of hot rocks or in ashes for a couple of days and then eaten. They should be covered with grass and leaves so that they will steam and taste better. The stalk sections are called Uasil, and are also roasted and eaten. The short leaves around the head are called Yamil. The caudex and young flower stalk, when 5 times the height of the plant, is edible raw, cooked or roasted, and called Mescal. Roast the caudex for two or three days. The base of the plant, called Maguey, is baked, then mashed to remove the juice and pulp, from which the Indians made a thick dark brown syrup. Or, it can be stored, sliced, and eaten like candy. It is rich in calcium and other minerals. The cooked plant was traded. The Cochimi roasted their mescal in mounds instead of pits.


The leaf juice obtained from the caudex can be left to stand for several days, whereupon it becomes fermented; it is then called Pulque. Add warm water and drink; it is sort of like wine. From this, Mescal, also known as Vino Mescal, and Tequila are made. Mescal is fermented; Tequila is distilled. Because the process for making Tequila takes the stalk before it is completely grown, the plant will produce no seeds, and it is causing the species to die out in certain locations. The Indians used to just cut out the heart of the plant and let it sit; it would ferment all by itself, and produce very strong drink. For survival water, cut the margin and tip off the leaf and roast the leaf over a fire until it is charred. Scrape away the black part, and cut the rest up, and put it in a turtle carapace and pound it. The liquid resembles pineapple juice.

The juice, called Agua Miel in Spanish, is antiseptic and good for the stomach and intestines. It is good for tuberculosis, but it must be used sparingly because of its cathartic properties. The fibers may be extracted by mashing the leaf with a rock, working the pulp loose, and washing it in water for a day. They are called Henequen or Sisal. The water can then be used as a disinfectant for the hair, and a stimulant or tonic. It is applied to the scalp. The best fibers for weaving come from the leaves. They are also used for making bowstrings, threads, shoes, clothing, nets, slings, mats, bags for gathering cactus, hairbrushes and cleaning brushes for cooking water, snares, cradles, and saddle blankets. To make a brush, tie the fibers from the leaves in bunches. Up to 100 pounds can be carried in a net. The thorn can be used as an awl. The dried stalks are used for firewood. This plant is low in sapogenins, so it will not lather in the same manner as the others. Brooms, hairbrushes, and lances are also made. See Yucca for weaving methods. For sewing, cut the needle at the end of the leaf partially off, then strip a few fibers down the length of the leaf. Clean them. The fibers are also used to make rope. Old rotted fibers are used as fire tinder: fray them by beating with a rock. The dried flower stalks are also used to construct roofs, with the leaves laid overlapping for shingles. Caution: the juice of the leaf is irritating to skin, mouth, and eyes. To relieve pain, apply plaintain juice or tea. The stems and flowering shoots are browsed. The plants protect the small rodents that live around the base. Birds, insects, and Neotoma, the pack rat, eat the flowers and maybe the seeds. Bighorn sheep and cattle eat the flowering shoots.


A. colorata (A. fortiflora): Lechuguilla, Maguey, Mescal Ceniza. Seri: Haamxo caacol "large agave". Ornamental. This species probably crossbreeds with A shrevei. It is prepared in the same manner as A. cerulata for food. It can be pit baked and it is sweet. It is used as a source of sugar. The cooked hearts are used to make wine. Crush them with a grinding stone on a solid base, add water, and let it stand until it tastes slightly bitter. After that point, it will turn into vinegar. If water is not added, the wine remains sweet. Hummingbirds like the flowers.

A. desmettiana (A. miradorensis, regeliana). This species resembles A. sisalana, A. franceschiana, A. weberi, and A. neglecta. Ornamental in the tropics. The fibers are fine, soft, and weak, and the saponin content is only _.3%. It is frost sensitive.

A. felgeri: Mescalito. This plant closely resembles A. schottii. It was not used. It contains 1% sapogenins, of which 67% are chlorogenin and 33% tigogenin, or in other locales, 100% chlorogenin.

A. gigantensis. This plant resembles A. avellanidens and A. moranii.


A. impressa: Masparillo. Exotic. The viscid leaves are used as a paste for curing wounds in horses. They contain no sapogenin.

A. jaiboli. Warihio: Jaiboli, Temeshi. This species is edible and very sweet. It contains no appreciable amount of sapogenin. Boil the flowering shoots. The heads can be pit baked over hot stones and coals. This is a rare plant because the Indians often cut out the shoot prematurely so the rosette will remain green until it can be used. It propagates only by seed. It is somewhat frost hardy. Animals, especially rabbits and gophers, like to eat the plant.

A. macroculmis: Maguey, Maguey Verde. Exotic. The flowering shoot is edible steam cooked. They are sold in one half inch cross slices. Chew on the fiber to get the sweet juice.

A. mapisaga: Maguey Lisa, Maguey Mapisaga. Exotic. It is used to make pulque. It is related to A. salmiana. Cultivated. It forms some suckers. A. mapisaga lisa appears to be a clone.


A. margaritae (A. connochaetodon). Related to A. vizcainoensis.

A. mayoensis (A. chrysoglossa, eduardii, houghii, vilmoriniana): Amole, Anoplagave, Octopus Agave. Seri: Hasot "narrow". Warihio: Hauwe. Ornamental. This plant resembles A. ellemeetiana. The heart is edible, though it is bitter. Cut off the leaves and bases, and heat the heart thoroughly in an open fire. Then pierce it in several places and pit-bake it as described above. Most of the bitter juice will drain away. The plant contains liquid nectar, which is palatable during the dry season.

The raw leaf pulp is used to wash clothes. Cut the dried leaf bases on dead flowered plants 6 to 8 inches above the base, pound the fibers with a rock to make a brush, and use it with water. Rub the pulp on the clothes to release the soap. It contains the sapogenin smilagenin, 3 to 4.5% of the dry leaf. This is a very high percentage. The flowers attract hummingbirds and insects.

A. mexicana, exotic: Amole de Raiz. Has pharmacological properties. The juice is taken as an emmenagogue, diuretic, and laxative. The juice is applied to the exterior against scabies. The root is used to wash clothes. The same name also signifies Hymenocallis rotata (Amoli), Zephyranthes carinata (Amolsochitl), Prochnyanthes viridescens (Amolli Abrbo'n, Apintli), Polyanthes tuberosa (Omisochitl, Nardos), Phytolacca octandra (Iyamoli ), Schizocarpum filiforme (Quilamolli), Cucurbita foetidissima (Chichicamolli), and Melothria scabra.


A. moranii resembles A. deserti pringlei. The flowers are good to eat. The leaf fiber is used.

A. multifilifera. Chahuiqui. This species is similar to A. filifera and A. schidigera. It would be a good landscape plant.

A. ocahui. Amoliyo. Majahui, Ocahui, Ojajui, all mean "cordage". The plant contains _.5 to 1% sapogenins. The leaves are used for cordage and brushes. The plant is cold hardy.

A. panamana. Exotic. This plant tolerates sea salt like A. aktites and A. colimana.

A. parrasana (A. wislizeni, nom illegit): Noah. Exotic. Cold hardy and a good ornamental.


A. parryi (A. applanata, chihuahuana, couesii, chrysantha, durangensis, huachucensis, palmeri, parryi truncata, patonii, repanda, shrevei, toumeyana): Blue Century Plant, Ceniza, Lecheguilla Ceniza, Lechuguilla, Lechuguilla Ceniza, Maguey de Ixtle, Maguey de la Casa, Mescal, Mescal Blanco, Mescal Ceniza, Parry's Century Plant. Tarahumara: Me, Socolume, O'tosa. Warihio: Totosa, Totosali. Ornamental. The plant resembles A. flexispina, but has flowers more like A. palmeri. The rosette resembles a giant artichoke. It rarely flowers, but produces a terminal bud and dies when it does. It also resembles A. shrevei, A. chrysantha, A. colorata, and A. flexispina. A. durangensis resembles A. scabra when not in flower. It is compact, frost hardy, with red and yellow blooms. A. parryi truncata will grow very small and, if kept depauperate, can be used as a "bonsai". It can be grown in the ground or in a pot. It tolerates frost and full sun, and requires a little watering. The soil should drain well. The plant produces pups.

The plant is eaten and used for making mescal and for mescal bread. The heads are pit baked. The tender flowering shoots are edible. A. palmeri is sweet, and contains little sapogenin. Small plants of A. shrevei are medicinal. The varieties contain _.5 to 1.5 sapogenins, usually hecogenin. They are good soil binders on slopes. The leaves are cultivated for the fiber. They are pulled off the drying trunk with a short sidewise jerk. Animals like the flowering shoots. The flowers are popular with birds and insects.


A. parviflora (A. hartmanii, hartmani): Sóbali, Sóbari, Tauta, Tautilla. Warihio: Taiehcholi. Ornamental in pots. The plant is very sweet when cooked, but very small and not often used. It is used to make dulce (candy), and the flowering stalks were used to make arrow shafts. It is well liked by carpenter bees.

A. pelona (A. potrerana): Lechuguilla, Mescal Pelón. Seri: Inyeeno "faceless". Ornamental. The heart and leaf bases are edible cooked. They are used to make mescal, but the cabezas are too small to make it worthwhile. The plant is a source of fiber which is long and pliable. It contains _.06% sapogenin and _.3% smilagenin. The flowers are eaten by rodents. The spines are dangerous to children. The plant will take hard winter freezes.

A. polianthiflora, (A. hartmanii, nomen confusum): Mescalitos. Warihio: Taiehcholi. Ornamental. This plant is similar to A. parviflora and A. hartmanii. It is good pit baked. The stalks are used as arrow shafts.

A. polyacantha (A. chloracantha, densiflora, engelmannii, flaccifolia, micrantha, muilmannii, uncinata). Exotic. Ornamental. This plant is sometimes an epiphyte.

A. promontorii (A. brandegeei, capensis). This plant may form hybrids with A. aurea.


A. rhodacantha. It resembles A. pacifica, and may hybridize with it. It also resembles A. gutierreziana, A. elongata, A. candalabrum, and A. spectabilis. The fibers are long and excellent.

A. salmiana (A. atrovirens, coarctata, cochlearis, compluviata, crassispina, ferox, jacobiana, latissima, lehmannii, mitriformis, potatorum, quiotifera, tehuacanensis): Aguamiel, Centemetl, Maguey de Pulque, Maguey Manso, Metl, Savia agaves, Teometl, Tlacametl. Exotic. Has pharmacological properties. Many of the cultivars are larger, being polyploids. They are more vigorous and sweeter. Suckering is common. It has been planted along the property lines of land for centuries. Sand gathers around the plants, forming dunes. They are used to hold soil and make terraces. The plants are tapped for their juice. About 75% of the pulque made is from this species. It is nourishing and mildly alcoholic. The sugar extract is of very good quality; it is also used to make a good quality vinegar.

The liquid is extracted from the rootstock in which one has prevented the development of the inflorescence, by cutting its shaft or floral axis. The yellow or whitish mucilaginous foamy liquid, of bittersweet taste and herbaceous odor, is of variable density. It contains sugar, rubber, potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, albumin, chlorine; sulfuric, phosphoric, and silicic acids; water, resinous and albuminoid materials, and gases. In Aguamiel there is glucose (levulose), sugar, malic acid, rubber, albumin, ammonia, minerals, and water. Antiscorbutic and antiblenorrhagic. The leaves, roots, and sugary sap are used. Probably the leaves contain similar principles as Agave americana. They are rubifacient and cause blistering. They appear to work well against tetanus, in massage. The roots are diuretic, diaphoretic, and antisyphilitic.


A twillable fiber is taken from the conal bud when it is cut out for tapping the sap. This strong fiber is used to make cord, nets, carrying bags, and cloth. From the leaves they extract a filament called Ixtle, which is used to make ropes and various fabrics, and for making paper. The plant is used for fences, poles, leaf thatching of roofs, flavoring in Pan de Pulque, and the leaf pulp is used as a poultice on bruises and sores in animals. The leaves are cut for forage for milk cows. They grow in areas that have only 14 to 16 inches of rain annually. It needs well drained good quality soil with ample water in the summer. It will withstand light frost. Summer temperatures of 110 to 115 degrees cause harm. It is easily propagated and cultivated for variants suitable for specific purposes, such as food and drink, and for fiber.

A. schlectendalii. This plant resembles A. americana.

A. schottii (A. angustissima, colimana, disceptata, filifera, filamentosa, geminiflora, geminiflora sonorae, mulfordiana, ornithobroma, schidigera, treleasei, vestita, wrightii, Littaea g.): Amole, Amoliyo, Shindagger. The species is similar to A. falcata, A. multifilifera, and A. felgeri except the flowers. It is related to A. filifera. A. colimana tolerates salt water. This species is considered inedible by the Comcaac. Allegedly they do not taste good, and they are hard to use because of their small size. However, the young bud stalks can be roasted by covering them with heated stones in pits. The stems and crowns contain saponin. The leaves contain _.5 to 1.2% sapogenins, mostly gitogenin and chlorogenin. It is used as soap, and to wash clothes. Crush the leaves in a container and add water. See Yucca for more ways to extract it. The foamy mixture is used as shampoo. The flowering stalk is used to make arrow shafts. The plants hold soil well. Parrots like the flowers and buds.


A. shawii (A. ?disjuncta, goldmanniana, orcuttiana, pachyacantha, sebastiana): Ornamental. Coastal Agave, Maguey, Mescal, Shaw's Mescal. This is the only food plant where it grows for much of the year. The meristem is edible. The fibers are used. For awhile, fields of it were cut in San Diego for the decorticating machine, but it never proved economically viable. A. shawii goldmaniana grows in areas that have nocturnal fogs. These fogs cause epiphytic lichens and Tillandsia to festoon the desert trees. The leaf bases, hearts, young flowers, tender lateral branches, and the tops off flowering shoots are all eaten by animals. The stalk is browsed.

A. sisalana (A. amaniensis, caribaeicola, kewensis, rigida): Sisal Hemp. This is a sexually sterile clone, a pentaploid hybrid, which can occasionally be crossed with A. angustifolia and A. amaniensis. The pollen in these crosses always comes from A. sisalana. The cross of the hybrids back with A. amaniensis produces an excellent fiber plant with double the yield of A. sisalana. A. sisalana itself may well be a cross between A. angustifolia and A. kewensis. The plant is used to make fences. Sisal hemp from the leaves is a leading world hard fiber. There is much literature on it. The fiber is extracted by hand with crude tools on a pole or board bench. A metal scraper mounted on a wooden stick was used as a draw knife. The leaf was attached to the board. The pulp is scraped off the fiber, cleaned, and dried. The fiber is twisted into twine and used to make ropes, nets, hammocks, and other things. Nearly half the world's hard fibers come from various species of agave, most of it from sisal, and most of the rest from henequen. This fiber may well become a substitute for increasingly rare synthetic fibers derived from petroleum. A. amaniensis produces superior fiber. It is believed to be a hybrid developed in Tanzania.


A. sobria (A. affinis, avellanidens, carminis, cerulata, connochaetodon, consociata, datylio, dentiens, deserti, disjuncta, nelsonii, pringlei, roseana, sleviniana, slevinii, vexans): Datilillo, Datiliyo, Mescal Pardo, Mescaliyo, Pardito. Ornamental. This plant is used to make mescal. The stems or cabezas are eaten. This plant is a source of cortisone, and contains hecogenin, tigogenin, manogenin, and gitogenin. Sapogenin content varies from 1.5% to _.5%, depending on the subspecies.

A. subsimplex: Century Plant, Maguey. Seri: Ahmmo, ?aamXW, Den;kl, Haamxo. This plant is closely related to A. cerulata and A. deserti. The plants which were getting ready to flower were eaten in January and February. Cut them off at ground level with an agave chisel, which is made of catclaw (Acacia greggii), Palo Blanco (Acacia willardiana), Paloverde (Cercidium floridum and microphyllum), Colubrina, or Green Ironwood (Olneya tesota). It has a cutting edge on one end, and is pounded with a rock. It can also be used to pry the plant out of the ground. Trim the leaves close with a knife, leaving the whitish core, with the base of the leaf still attached, and with a strip of leaf fiber still attached also. These strips can be tied together to carry the leaves. Dig a deep pit and build a fire in it. Let the fire burn down, and pile the pieces, top down, on the coals. Place flat rocks on them, and then cover with dirt about three inches, then build another fire on top of that, and let it die, cover the coals with more dirt, and leave it overnight. The leaf pieces are removed the next day; they are blackened on the surface, but there is a brownish pulp underneath which is firm, sweet, and juicy. The outer black part can be used to make patties, and they can be stored or taken on trips. To consume them, dissolve them in water and drink the sweet liquid, leaving the pulp behind. Cut up the inner portion for eating. The Comcaac ate it with sea turtle fat (cooked or uncooked), or in turtle oil, or with the meat. Served this way, the oil tastes something like coconut oil. It can also be sun dried and stored. It can also be shredded before it is dried, and made into cakes which are dried and stored or carried on trips. It can be softened in water, and the entire mixture drunk. The cake can be moistened and eaten by chewing it and sucking out the juice, discarding the pulp. This pulp was shaken and the material that falls out was added to fish or sea turtle stew. The cooked base of the leaf can also be torn into strips, and chewed and sucked for its juice. The pieces are then dried and shaken for the flour left behind, which is eaten. The pulp is discarded. Most species can be prepared and eaten in like manner. This includes A. angustifolia, q.v., and A. cerulata , q.v. The plant contains .07 to .14% sapogenin.


A. sullivani (A. fourcroydes). Cultivar. The plant resembles A. pacifica. It is used to make Mescal. The fiber is grown commercially in some places. It is called Henequen or Sisal Grass. The leaves are trimmed as the plant grows, leaving a trunk which can be up to a meter high. The plant is not frost hardy, and although it endures drought well, it require 30 inches of rain or more a year to produce high quality fiber. The coarse, strong fiber is used for rope, coarse twine, bailing twine, and is resistant to seawater. The sapogenin is mainly hecogenin, which is a byproduct of the fiber production, in the waste bagasse. It is used to produce sex hormones and cortisone. The hecogenin is less than 1% of the dry weight. The cord was found in stucco figures in facades of ancient cities. It was called Cahum or Chelem. It was used to make hammocks, and ship's cordage. The plant appears to be a sterile hybrid, which is propagated by bulbils or suckers. The leaves are prickly to handle.

A. tecta: Maguey. Exotic. The plant is used for fences and ornamentals, and to make Pulque.

A. tequilana (A. palmaris, pedrosana, pes-mulae, pseudotequilana, subtilis): Mescal Azul. The plant is used to manufacture tequila, a distilled liquor used to make Margaritas. It takes 15 pounds of cabezas to make one liter of liquor. The cabezas contain starchy meristems. The leaves are trimmed off close to the cabeza, and it is shipped to the distillery. They are steam cooked, then macerated, and the juice put into vats. Anaerobic bacteria convert the sugar to alcohol. Then the juice is distilled. It can be drunk this way, or fortified with cane alcohol, aged in oak kegs, or flavored with brown sugar.

A. utahensis (A. difformis, eborispina, funkiana, haynaldii, kaibabensis, nevadensis, newberryi, scaphoidea): Ixtle de Jaumave, Mescal, Utah Century Plant, Xixi, Yant. Paiute: Oose. Ornamental. This plant is related to A. lophantha and sometimes confused with A. mckelveyana (A. aquariensis). The roasted bud and stalk are edible. The juice is used to make tequila. The macerated fiber is used for soap. It has very good fibers, which can be spun, or made into rope. Squirrels like the green capsules and the fruit.


A. virginica, exotic: Rattlesnake's Master, Virginian Agave. This plant is used for flatulent colic and rattlesnake bite. See A. americana, above.

A. vizcainoensis. These resemble A. gigantensis.

A. weberi (A. franceschiana). Exotic. The fiber is of fine quality. It is used to make fences and pulque. Ornamental. It produces suckers.

A. wocomahi: Tarahumara: Ojcome. Warihio: Wocomahi. This species resembles A. bovicornuta, q.v. The plant is sweet and edible, and used for making mescal. The flowers are cooked and eaten like squash. The heads are eaten as fresh chunks or pounded into dried cakes, called Mesagoli, or made into a fermented drink called Sugui or Tesguino. The leaf fiber is used to make rope, cord, and pack saddle pads. It requires cross-pollination.


A. yaquiana: Mescal. The trunk and young flowering stalk is roasted over coals and eaten. The flowers can be boiled or steamed. The mildly intoxicating Batari is made by brewing the pit-baked heart, mixed in water with the root of Phaseolus caracala. When it stops bubbling, it is ready. Mescal is made from the pit-baked pith. It is chopped, distilled, and aged, and highly intoxicating. Dulce is pit-baked juicy pith, which is eaten. Cut the flowering stalk before blooming into sections and bake it in coals.

A. zebra: Mescal Lechuguilla. The plant resembles A. marmorata and A. deserti. It is used to make mescal. It is cold hardy.

A. avellanidens. A. margaritae. A. murpheyi. A. pringlei. The flowering stalks of some of these species are edible, roasted. Select the shoots anytime prior to full bloom.


Notes index