|Century plant or maguey|
Agave americana, common names centuryplant, maguey, or American aloe, is a species of flowering plant in the family Agavaceae, originally native to Mexico, Arizona, and Texas but cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant. It has become naturalized in many regions including the West Indies, parts of South America, the Mediterranean Basin, parts of Africa, India, China, Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, and an assortment of oceanic islands.
Despite the common name "American aloe", it is not closely related to plants in the genus Aloe.
Although it is called the century plant, it typically lives only 10 to 30 years. It has a spread of about 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 to the bone. Near the end of its life, the plant sends up a tall, branched stalk, laden with yellow blossoms, that may reach a total height of 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.
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.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2013)|
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 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; Agave americana is one of several agaves used for distillation. A mezcal called tequila, is produced from Agave tequilana, commonly called "blue agave". There are many different types of mezcal some of which may be flavored with the very pungent mezcal worm. 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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- Tropicos Agave americana
- Plant list Agave americana
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- "RHS Plant Selector - Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba'". Retrieved 2013-06-11.
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- Escamoles and Maguey Worms; http://www.laweekly.com/squidink/2011/06/21/escamoles-and-maguey-worms-john-sedlar-on-the-joy-of-eating-bugs
- 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.
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