Facts

This plant is known to some as the century plant, because it is thought to flower only once every 100 years; however, this is misleading as it usually flowers after 20-30 years of storing enormous food reserves in its leaves and then dies.

Where it grows

Originally from Mexico, the agave now grows across the world in similar growth conditions: a sunny and dry climate, and well-drained soil.

Common uses

In Mexico drinks are made by cutting off the flower head and collecting the rising sap - as much as 1000 litres per plant! The sap is then fermented into a drink called pulque, and can then be distilled to make the spirit mescal (a related plant, the blue agave, is used to produce tequila).

Juice from the core of the plant is used to produce agave nectar - a sweetener often used in food and drinks as a substitute for sugar or honey.

Fibres can be extracted from the leaves of this plant and used for rope, matting and coarse cloth.

Conservation story

This agave's ability to generate suckers and hardy stems underground (rhizomes) means it is a threat to vulnerable native plant species, and is classed as an invasive in many dryland areas around the world. It can significantly change the landscape because of its shape and size.

Wildlife facts

The agave is pollinated by insects, nectar-loving bats and hummingbirds.

Glossary

  • Lanceolate: narrowly ovate and tapering to a point.
  • Succulent: plant or plant part consisting of juicy flesh.

Useful links

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