Agave americana

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Agave americana
Scientific classification e
Kingdom:Plantae
Clade:Angiosperms
Clade:Monocots
Order:Asparagales
Family:Asparagaceae
Subfamily:Agavoideae
Genus:Agave
Species:A. americana
Binomial name
Agave americana
L., 1753[1]
 
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Agave americana
Scientific classification e
Kingdom:Plantae
Clade:Angiosperms
Clade:Monocots
Order:Asparagales
Family:Asparagaceae
Subfamily:Agavoideae
Genus:Agave
Species:A. americana
Binomial name
Agave americana
L., 1753[1]
Agave americana in bloom in Portugal. The flower stalk may reach up to 8 meters (28 feet) in height.

Agave americana, commonly known as the century plant, maguey, or American aloe (although it is in a different family from the Aloe),[2] is an agave originally from Mexico but cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant. It has since naturalised in many regions and grows wild in Europe, South Africa, India, and Australia.[3]

Contents

Description

The misnamed century plant typically lives only 10 to 30 years. It has a spreading rosette (about 4 m/13 ft wide) of gray-green leaves up to 2 m (6.6 ft) long, each with a spiny margin and a heavy spike at the tip that can pierce to the bone.

When it flowers, the spike with a cyme of big yellow flowers may reach up to 8 m (26 ft) in height. Its common name likely derives from its semelparous nature of flowering only once at the end of its long life. The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers or adventitious shoots from the base, which continue its growth.

Taxonomy and naming

Agave americana was one of the many species described by Carl Linnaeus in the 1753 edition of Species Plantarum, with the binomial name that we still use today.

Cultivation

Agave americana is cultivated as an ornamental plant for the large dramatic form of mature plants - for modernist, drought tolerant, and desert style cactus gardens - among many planted settings.[4] The plants can be evocative of 18th-19th century Spanish colonial and Mexican provincial eras in the Southwestern United States, California, and xeric Mexico.

Subspecies and Cultivars

Two subspecies and two varieties of Agave americana are recognized by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families:[5]

Cultivars include:[6][7]

(those marked agm, as well as the parent species,[11] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit).

Uses

Tools used to obtain agave's ixtle fibers, at the Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City D.F.

Culinary

If the flower stem is cut without flowering, a sweet liquid called aguamiel ("honey water") gathers in the heart of the plant. This may be fermented to produce the drink called pulque. The leaves also yield fibers, known as pita, which are suitable for making rope, matting, coarse cloth and are used for embroidery of leather in a technique known as piteado. Both pulque and maguey fibre were important to the economy of pre-Columbian Mexico.

In the region of Tequila, agaves are called mezcales, and the high-alcohol product of their distillation is called mezcal. A higher grade of mezcal, called tequila, is produced from Agave tequilana, commonly called "blue agave". Mezcal may contain the mezcal worm, which pulque and tequila do not. Mezcal and tequila, although also produced from agave plants, are different from pulque in their technique for extracting the sugars from the heart of the plant, and in that they are distilled spirits. In mezcal and tequila production, the sugars are extracted from the piñas (or hearts) by heating them in ovens, rather than by collecting aguamiel from the plant's cut stalk. Thus if one were to distill pulque, it would not be a form of mezcal, but rather a different drink.

Agave nectar, also called agave syrup, is marketed as a natural sugar substitute[citation needed] with a low glycemic index that is due to its high fructose content.

Heraldry

The plant figures in the coat of arms of Don Diego de Mendoza, a Native American governor of the village of Ajacuba, Hidalgo state.[12] The sap is quite acidic and can be quite painful if it comes in contact with the skin. It can form small blisters.


Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ "Agave americana L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2005-05-23. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?1690. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
  2. ^ Bailey, L.H.; Bailey, E.Z.; the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. 1976. Hortus third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. Macmillan, New York.
  3. ^ Irish, Gary (2000). Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide. Timber Press. pp. 94–97. ISBN 978-0-88192-442-8. http://books.google.com/books?id=YbVYuq73I0wC.
  4. ^ NPIN - Information . accessed 11.1.2011.
  5. ^ Search for "Agave americana", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/, retrieved 2012-12-12
  6. ^ Vermeulen, Nico. 1998. The Complete Encyclopedia of Container Plants, pp. 36-37. Netherlands: Rebo International. ISBN 90-366-1584-4
  7. ^ Royal Horticultural Society Database : Agave americana, retrieved 2011-07-28
  8. ^ http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=4495
  9. ^ http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=5161
  10. ^ http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=5861
  11. ^ http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=2106
  12. ^ pacbell.net/nelsnfam/mexico

External links