Sunday, February 15, 2015

Desert Agave

Our yard landscaping design is pretty informal. Nearly all of the plants are desert native. Some have been purchased but many more are rescues, or volunteers that appeared on their own or have reseeded from existing plants.

One of our plants is a native Desert Agave (Agave deserti) that we rescued many years ago from a construction site. It had been bulldozed off an area of cleared land, and left in a pile of debris destined for the dump.

We brought it home, trimmed the damaged leaves, potted it and nursed it back to health.

Eventually it recovered and we planted it in our front yard, where it has flourished and produced many sucker babies from the base rosette.

Within the last few days the main plant has started to produce a flower stalk. The stalk is presently about a foot taller than the plant, but it is growing in height rather quickly.

Various species of agave grow throughout the desert southwest. They have historically been an important source of food, medicine and fiber for many Indian tribes.

The plant additionally is a source of beverages including the fresh juice ("aguamiel, or honey water), a fermented brew ("pulque") and the more potent mescal.

Only one species of agave, Agave tequilana, is used to produce Tequila.

Agaves flower at maturity, or about 20 years on average. The base rosette will die after flowering, as it uses all its stored energy to produce this massive flowering stalk.

This agave has suckers growing from the base of the original plant. So the parent plant is able to reproduce both through its one-time seed production and through the clones that will continue to grow after the parent plant dies.

It will be interesting to watch this flowering stalk as it develops and eventually blooms.

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