Agave lechuguilla (common name in Chihuahua: lechuguilla, meaning "small lettuce") is an Agave species found only in the Chihuahuan Desert, where it is an indicator species. It typically grows on calcareous soils. The plant flowers once in its life and then dies. The flowers are a source of nutrients for insects, bats, and some birds.
The leaves are long, tough, and rigid, with very sharp, hard points that can easily penetrate clothing and even leather, giving the colloquial name "shin-daggers". Mexican people have used fibers from the leaves (commonly called ixtle)."
The water stored in the flowering stalks of this plant, rich in salts and minerals, is sold in Mexico as a sport drink. The plant makes up a large part of the diet of the collared peccary (SW USA: javelina) in some areas. It is toxic to cattle and sheep, however. Roots of the plants were used as soap by Native Americans.
The plant reproduces most often through underground offshoots, creating large colonies. It also can flower at any time after the plant has reached three to 21 years of age, producing a leafless stalk that can reach 3.7 metres (12 feet) in height. The flower clusters are located at the top and are funnel-shaped in purples, reds, and yellows. The plant dies after flowering.
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- Kew World Checklist
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- Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). "Agave lechuguilla". Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). New York and Oxford – via eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
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- Data related to Agave lechuguilla at Wikispecies
- Media related to Agave lechuguilla at Wikimedia Commons
- USDA Plants Profile for Agave lechuguilla (lechuguilla)
- University of Michigan - Dearborn: Native American Ethnobotany: Agave lecheguilla (Maguey lechuguilla)