Pronounciation: A-GA-ve de-SER-ti
USDA 9 - 11
Landscape Use: Medium sized agave for large out of the away desert landscape spaces.
Form & Character: Sharp and unfriendly.
Growth Habit: Perennial monocot; desert agave are "small to medium sized, glaucous gray to greenish, freely suckering, or medium sized to large, green, nonsurculose, the rosettes acaulesent to short caulesent" (Gentry, 1982).
Foliage/texture: Leaves are rigid, coarsley fibered, with a thick cuticle, narrowly lanceolate and with weak, easily detached teeth (serrations), or broader and with firmer teeth (serrations), to 3 feet in length; coarse texture.
Flowers & fruits: Flower stalks are a sturdy and thick up to 10 feet tall. Stalks are a narrow panicle with short lateral branches, dry scarious peduncular bracts, and small umbellate flower clusters; flowers small with very short open tube, the sepals about equal and 3 to 5 times as long as the tube. Spring flowering, thus young developing stalks can become purplish at higher elevations due to night-time cold. Fruits are a capsule, small to medium size, and are freely seeding (Gentry, 1982).
Seasonal color: None; desert agave bloom once at 8 to 20 years of age.
Temperature: Indigenuous to the lower Sonoran Desert; thus, it is completely at home in lower desert landscape settings.
Light: Full sun
Soil: Any soil type, but thrives best if soils are very gravely sand to loamy coarse sand.
Watering: Limited to no supplemental irrigation is required for desert agave.
Propagation: Division of underground rhizomes.
Disease and pests: None
Additional comments: Desert agave has a rich ethnobotanical legacy. The Coahuilan Indians of Southern California are thought to have once made use of desert agave. They referred to desert agave as "a-mul", sections of the flowering stalk as "u-a-sil", the leaves as "ya-mil", and the yellow blossoms as "amul-sal-em". These parts of desert agave were all cooked in various ways and eaten, or made into drink, soap, clothing, rope, other fibers, needles and thread, paper, glue, weapons, medicines, red coloring matter or ornamental and hedge plants. Variety deserti is native to Southern California. Variety simplex is native to Arizona.
Gentry, Howard Scott 1982, "Agaves of Continental North America" pg.354. The University of Arizona Press 1982.