Overview

Brief Summary

Overview of Uses and Cultivation of A. angustifolia

Agave angustifolia is a narrow-leaved agave with yellow to green flowers from which many cultivated varieties have been derived (Valenzuela Zapata & Nabhan 2003; Gentry 1982). It provides many products and has been used to provide food and daily use objects since Aztec times (Mohr 1999). Additionally, many traditional medicines can be derived from this plant. The juice of the leaves and stems as well as root infusions and teas can be taken internally or used as poultices for both internal and external swelling, bruises, liver and kidney disease, arthritis and dysentery (Mata Pizón Mata & Zolla 1994b; García-Mendoza & Chiang 2003).

Spines at the ends of leaves have traditionally been used to make pins and needles (Mohr 1999; Mata Pizón & Zolla 1994a). The woody inflorescence stems continue to be used as posts, rafters and fences and leaves are used for thatching or to provide forage, fuel and forage (García-Mendoza & Chiang 2003). A. angustifolia is additionally commercially cultivated in Mexico, the West Indies and Southern Europe and harvested to produces sisal hemp (Franck 2012). Three varieties in particular are cultivated for their fibers: var. deweyana (Trel.) in Tamaulipas and Veracruz, var. letonae (Taylor) in El Salvador and Guatemala, and var. nivea (Trel.) in Guatemala (Gentry 1982).

The flower buds, flowers, stems, leaf bases, peduncles of young flowers and fruits can all be eaten and continue to be eaten as traditional foods in some parts of western Mexico(García-Mendoza & Chiang 2003). The stems are cooked and their juice extracted fermented and distilled to make a variety of alcoholic beverages.  Several cultivars have been selected form the same gene-pool of Agave angustfolia  first for food and then for characteristics that made them favorable for the production of distilled alcoholic beverages such as mezcals which are produced in the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durrango, Guerrero, Mexico, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Sinaloa and Sonora (García-Mendoza & Chiang 2003). The most economically of these is Agave tequilana, which is differentiated as its own species though many botanists regard this separation to be nominal only (Lopez et al. 2003; Valensuela Zapata & Nabhan 2003; Franck 2012; Garcia-Mendoza & Chiang 2003; Gentry 1982).

More than 20 landraces of Agave angustifolia Haw. are still cultivated in Mexico’s central western region near the south of the state Jalisco in order to produce mescals (Vargas-Ponce et al. 2009). Several varieties are found throughout southeastern Mesoamerica and in the highlands but are facing pressure from the tequila industry which only cultivates blue agave (Miller and Taube 1993; Dalton 2005; Valenzuela 2011). 

  • Dalton, Rex (2005). Alcohol &science: Saving the Agave. Nature 438 (22 December): 1070-1071.
  • Franck, Alan R (2012). Guide to Agave, Cinnamomum, Corymbia, Eucalyptus, Pandanus and Sanservieria in the Flora of Floria. Phytoneuron 2012-102:1-23.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, Abisai & Fernando Chiang (2003). The Confusion over Agave vivipara L. and A. angustifolia Haw., two distinct taxa. Brittonia 55(1) 2003: 82-87
  • Gentry, HS (1982). Agaves of Continental North America. University of Arizona Press.
  • Lopez, Mercedes G. Norma A. Mancilla-Margalli, Guillermo Mendoza Diaz (2003). Molecular Structures of Fructans from Agave Tequilana Weber Var. azul. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry. 51(77): 7835-7840.
  • Mata Pizón, Soledad and Carlos Zolla (1994a). “Maguey” In Diccionario Encilopédico de la Medicina Tradicional Mexicana. Instituto Nacional Indigenista.
  • Mata Pizón, Soledad and Carlos Zolla (1994b). “Pulque” In Diccionario Encilopédico de la Medicina Tradicional Mexicana. Instituto Nacional Indigenista.
  • Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. Thames & Hudson.
  • Mohr, Gary M. Jr. (1999) "Blue Agave and Its Importance in the Tequila Industry," Ethnobotanical Leaflets, 1999(3): Article 2.
  • Valensuela Zapata, Ana Guadalupe & Gary Paul Nabhan (2003). Tequila: A Natural and Cultural History. University of Arizona Press.
  • Valenzuela, Ana (2011). “A new agenda for blue agave landraces: food, energy and tequila.” Vol 3(1)
  • Vargas-Ponce, Ofelia, Daniel Zizumbo-VillarrealMartínes-Castillo, Jaime, Coello-Coello Julián & Colunga-GarcíaMarín, Patricia. (2009) “Diversity and structure of landraces of agave grown for spirits under traditional agriculture.”
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Comprehensive Description

In Mexico, Agave angustifolia depends on bees, wasps, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, orioles, sphingids and nectar-feeding bats (Molina-Freaner & Eguirte, 2003: 1019). The migratory nectar-feeding bat Leptonycteris curasoae is the main and the most effective pollinator of A. angustifolia. The plant species produces greater nocturnal nectar secretions than during the day, when the bat is most active. In addition, flower maturation occurs when the bat is present during spring and summer months (Molina-Freaner & Eguirte, 2003: 1022). Agave angustifolia flowers January to May. Fruits start developing in February to April and are mature May to July (Molina-Freaner & Eguirte, 2003: 1021).

Agave angustifolia is traditionally used by the indigenous groups in Mexico as a source of fiber to make ropes and ties (Valenzuela-Zapata et al., 2011: 76).

References

Molina-Freaner, F. & Eguiarte, L. E. 2003. The pollination biology of two paniculate agaves (Agavaceae) from northwestern Mexico: contrasting roles of bats as pollinators. American Journal of Botany 90: 1016-1024. available at: http://www.amjbot.org/content/90/7/1016.full#cited-by; accessed on: Oct 9, 2012.

Valenzuela-Zapata, A. G., Lopez-Muraira, I. & Gaytan, M. S. 2011. Traditional Knowledge, Agave inaequidens(Koch) Conservation, and the Charro Lariat Articans of San Miguel Cuyután, Mexico. Society of Ethnobiology 2: 72-80.

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Agave angustifolia has a paniculate inflorescence growing or arranged in a panicle (Hansen & Wunderlin, 2011: 64). The agave family overall has an inferior ovary and leaf margin usually with prickles or spines. Agave angustifolia has blue-green leaf blades that are 5-12 centimeters wide. Agave angustifolia has a perianth, which is the outer part of the flower, consisting of sepals and petals, segments that distinctly unite below forming a tube. Leaf margin is entirely or with a few irregularly spaced teeth. The flower is a tall, diffuse panicle and the flowers are 5-6.5 cm long. The leaves have white or pale yellow margins, perianth segments (Hansen & Wunderlin, 2011: 64).

References

Hansen, B. F. & Wunderlin, R. P. Agave, 64. In: Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida, Gainesville, Fl: University Press of Florida.

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Distribution

Widely cultivated.
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Throughout its range in North America and Mexico, Agave angustifolia is greatly polymorphic, or found in in several forms (Molina-Freaner & Eguirte, 2003: 1018). Agave angustifolia is found in Florida in the counties of Martin, Sarasota, Broward, and Miami-Dade (Wunderlin & Hansen, 2012). Agave angustifolia ranges from northern tropical areas to tropical deserts.

References

Molina-Freaner, F. & Eguiarte, L. E. 2003. The pollination biology of two paniculate agaves (Agavaceae) from northwestern Mexico: contrasting roles of bats as pollinators. American Journal of Botany 90: 1016-1024. available at: http://www.amjbot.org/content/90/7/1016.full#cited-by; accessed on: Oct 9, 2012.

Wunderlin, R. P. & B. F. Hansen. 2008. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants; available at: http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/; accessed on Oct 9, 2012.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Agave angustifolia

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Wikipedia

Agave angustifolia

Agave angustifolia (Variegated Caribbean Agave) is a plant which is native to Mexico. It is used to make mezcal and also as an ornamental plant.

This plant is also found in Antigua.

Agave angustifola and Agave vivipara are often used interchangeably, though most authors maintain them as distinct species with non-overlapping native distributions (García-Mendoza and Fernando Chiang 2003).

A. angustifolia has narrow, stiffly erect leaves with moderately-spaced spines, producing capsules, not bulibiferous; whereas A. vivipara is described as having shorter, recurved leaves with short-spaced spines and bulbiferous.

A. vivipara is likely similar to A. karatto. The A. vivipara of Miller (1768) and Smith et al. (2008) seem different, of a much smaller habit and narrower leaves, from the A. vivipara of Trelease (1913) and García-Mendoza and Fernando Chiang (2003), of a much larger habit.

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Notes

Nomenclature Confusion Over A. vivipara and A. angustofolia

According recent articles by AR Frank (2012) and A García-Mendoza & F Chiang (2003) as well as a book by AG Valensuela Zapata & GP Nabhan (2003), it has been established that A. vivipara L. does not have priority over A. angostifolia Haw. and that they are two separate species.  Recent biotechnology literature (such as Simpson et al, 2011) seems to have accepted them as two separate species.

AG Valensuela Zapata & GP Nabhan (2003) also stated in their book that it has been generally accepted that A. vivipara L. has priority over A. cantala.

  • Frank, Alan R (2012). Guide to Agave, Cinnamomum, Corymbia, Eucalyptus, Pandanus and Sanservieria in the Flora of Floria. Phytoneuron 2012-102:1-23
  • Garcia-Mendoza, Abisai & Fernando Chiang (2003). The Confusion over Agave vivipara L. and A. angustifolia Haw., two distinct taxa. Brittonia 55(1) 2003: 82-87
  • Valensuela Zapata, Ana Guadalupe & Gary Paul Nabhan (2003). Tequila: A Natural and Cultural History. University of Arizona Press.
  • Simpson, June et al. (2011) "Genomic resources and transcriptome mining in Agave tequilana" GCB Bioenergy 3(1) 2011:25-36.
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