Agave americana, commonly known as the century plant, maguey, or American aloe (although it is in a different family from Aloe), 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.
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 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. 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:
- Agave americana subsp. americana
- Agave americana subsp. protamericana Gentry
- Agave americana var. expansa (Jacobi) Gentry
- Agave americana var. oaxacensis Gentry
- 'Marginata' with yellow stripes along the margins of each leaf
- 'Mediopicta'agm with a broad cream central stripe
- 'Mediopicta Alba'agm with a central white band
- 'Mediopicta Aurea' with a central yellow band
- 'Striata' with multiple yellow to white stripes along the leaves
- 'Variegata'agm with white edges on the leaves.
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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. The high-alcohol product of agave distillation is called mezcal; Agave americana is one of several agaves used for distillation. A mezcal called tequila, is produced from Agave tequilana, commonly called "blue agave". Low-priced 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.
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Hedges of Agava Americana, Mezraya, Djerba island
Agave (americana), Yemen
In full bloom in San Francisco, California, USA
See also 
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- "Agave americana L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2005-05-23. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
- 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.
- Irish, Gary (2000). Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide. Timber Press. pp. 94–97. ISBN 978-0-88192-442-8.
- NPIN - Information . accessed 11.1.2011.
- Search for "Agave americana", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2012-12-12
- Vermeulen, Nico. 1998. The Complete Encyclopedia of Container Plants, pp. 36-37. Netherlands: Rebo International. ISBN 90-366-1584-4
- Royal Horticultural Society Database : Agave americana, retrieved 2011-07-28