Agave americana, commonly known as the century plant, 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 an 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.
Cultivated varieties include the "marginata" with yellow stripes along the margins of each leaf, "medio-picta alba" with a central white band, "medio-picta aurea" with a central yellow band, "striata" with multiple yellow to white stripes along the leaves, and "variegata" with white edges on the leaves.
Taxonomy and naming
It is known by a variety of common names, including Century plant and maguey. It is also known as the American Aloe, although it is in a different family from the true aloes.
- Agave americana var. americana
- Agave americana var. expansa
- Agave americana var. latifolia
- Agave americana var. oaxacensis
- Agave americana ssp. protamericana
If the flower stem is cut without flowering, a sweet liquid called agua miel ("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.
The sap is quite acidic and can be quite painful if it comes in contact with the skin. It can form small blisters.
Agave (americana), Yemen.
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- ^ "Agave americana L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2005-05-23. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?1690. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
- ^ Irish, Gary (2000). Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide. Timber Press. pp. 94–97. ISBN 9780881924428. http://books.google.com/books?id=YbVYuq73I0wC.
- ^ Vermeulen, Nico. 1998. The Complete Encyclopedia of Container Plants, pp. 36-37. Netherlands: Rebo International. ISBN 90-366-1584-4