Agave americana

Century plant or maguey
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus: Agave
Species: A. americana
Binomial name
Agave americana
  • Agave altissima Zumagl.
  • Agave americana var. marginata Trel.
  • Agave americana var. mediopicta Trel.
  • Agave americana var. picta (Salm-Dyck) A.Terracc.
  • Agave americana f. picta (Salm-Dyck) Voss
  • Agave americana var. striata Trel.
  • Agave americana var. subtilis (Trel.) Valenz.-Zap. & Nabhan
  • Agave americana var. theometel (Zuccagni) A.Terracc.
  • Agave americana var. variegata Hook.
  • Agave americana f. virginica Voss
  • Agave communis Gaterau
  • Agave complicata Trel. ex Ochot.
  • Agave cordillerensis Lodé & Pino
  • Agave felina Trel.
  • Agave fuerstenbergii Jacobi
  • Agave gracilispina (Rol.-Goss.) Engelm. ex Trel.
  • Agave ingens A.Berger
  • Agave melliflua Trel.
  • Agave milleri Haw.
  • Agave ornata Jacobi
  • Agave picta Salm-Dyck
  • Agave ramosa Moench
  • Agave salmiana var. gracilispina Rol.-Goss
  • Agave subtilis Trel.
  • Agave subzonata Trel.
  • Agave theometel Zuccagni
  • Agave variegata Steud.
  • Agave virginica Mill. 1768, non L. 1753
  • Agave zonata Trel.
Agave americana in bloom in Portugal: The flower stalk may reach up to 8 m (26 ft) in height.

Agave americana, common names sentry plant, century plant,[4] maguey, or American aloe,[5] is a species of flowering plant in the family Agavaceae, native to Mexico, and the United States in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Today, it is cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant. It has become naturalized in many regions, including the West Indies, parts of South America, the southern Mediterranean Basin, and parts of Africa, India, China, Thailand, and Australia. [6]

Despite the common name "American aloe", it is not closely related to plants in the genus Aloe.

Blossoms of maguey agave


Agave americana 'Marginata'

Although it is called the century plant, it typically lives only 10 to 30 years. It has a spread around 6–10 ft (1.8–3.0 m) with gray-green leaves of 3–5 ft (0.9–1.5 m) long, each with a prickly margin and a heavy spike at the tip that can pierce deeply. Near the end of its life, the plant sends up a tall, branched stalk, laden with yellow blossoms, that may reach a total height up to 25–30 ft (8–9 m) tall.

Its common name 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.[7]

Taxonomy and naming

A. americana was one of the many species described by Carl Linnaeus in the 1753 edition of Species Plantarum, with the binomial name that is still used today.[1]


A. 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. It is often used in hot climates and where drought conditions occur. [8] 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 A. americana are recognized by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families:[9]

Cultivars include:[10][11]

(those marked agm, as well as the parent species,[16] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit).


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


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, or coarse cloth, and are used for embroidery of leather in a technique known as piteado. Both pulque and maguey fiber were important to the economy of pre-Columbian Mexico.

In the tequila-producing regions of Mexico, agaves are called mezcales. The high-alcohol product of agave distillation is called mezcal; A. americana is one of several agaves used for distillation. A mezcal called tequila is produced from Agave tequilana, commonly called "blue agave". The many different types of mezcal include some which may be flavored with the very pungent mezcal worm.[17] 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 is marketed as a natural form of sugar with a low glycemic index that is due to its high fructose content.[18]


The plant figures in the coat of arms of Don Diego de Mendoza, a Native American governor of the village of Ajacuba, Hidalgo.[19]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Agave americana.


  1. 1 2 "Agave americana L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2005-05-23. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
  2. Tropicos Agave americana
  3. Plant list Agave americana
  4. "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  5. 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.
  6. Irish, Gary (2000). Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide. Timber Press. pp. 94–97. ISBN 978-0-88192-442-8.
  7. RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964.
  8. "Agave americana (American century plant)". Native Plant Database. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  9. Search for "Agave americana", "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  10. Vermeulen, Nico. 1998. The Complete Encyclopedia of Container Plants, pp. 36-37. Netherlands: Rebo International. ISBN 90-366-1584-4
  11. Royal Horticultural Society Database : Agave americana Archived December 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., retrieved 2011-07-28
  12. "RHS Plant Selector - Agave americana 'Marginata'". Retrieved 2015-06-17.
  13. "RHS Plant Selector - Agave americana 'Mediopicta'". Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  14. "RHS Plant Selector - Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba'". Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  15. "RHS Plant Selector - Agave americana 'Variegata'". Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  16. "RHS Plant Selector - Agave americana". Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  17. Escamoles and Maguey Worms;
  18. Oudhia, P., 2007. Agave americana L. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
  19. Archived July 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/18/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.