Scientific: Agave americana
Common: century plant, Maguey, American Aloe
Family: Asparagaceae (subfamily Agavoideae)
Origin: Slopes on the east and west of south central Mexico highlands

Pronounciation: A-GA-ve a-mer-i-KAN-a

Hardiness zones
USDA 9 - 11

Landscape Use: Strong accent, focal point, barrier plant, large desert gardens and xeric landscape design themes. Use century plant with discretion! Leaf tips are dangerously rigid and sharp.

Form & Character: Upright, stiffly arching, rigid, imposing, erect, stout, immovable, dangerous, xeric.

Growth Habit: Evergreen perennial succulent, quite variable in final mature size, moderately slow to 3 to 7 feet in height and width, vigorously clumping by formation of multiple basal offshoots from rhizomes (called ramets or chupones), monocarpic (individual rosettes die after one reproductive cycle - flowering and fruiting).

Foliage/texture: Flattened, strap-shaped succulent blue-green leaves, sometimes curved or reflexed, margins toothed but not horny, foliage tapering to a deadly terminal spine, 5 feet long and 10 inches wide, leaves arranged in a rosette pattern; very coarse texture.

Flowers & fruits: After about 10 years, plant produces a thick, green, arborescent, paniculate, flower stalk after which the flowering plant dies, flower stalk grows vigorously and is striking, persistent for months, flowers are yellow, 3 to 4 inches long, stalk will occasionally produce bulbils, an alternative reproductive strategy instead of setting fruit after flowering.

Seasonal color: None except when flowering in March to June at the end of its days.

Temperature: Tolerant to 20oF.

Light: Full sun

Soil: Sandy, some loam, well-drained best<./font>

Watering: None once established.

Pruning: Some may consider tip pruning spiny leaf apexes.

Propagation: Seed (often requires manual pollination) is slow to germinate requiring 1 to 3 months at 70oF or division of basal offshoots.

Disease and pests: Root rot if soil is chronically damp. Agave weevil (Scyphophorus acupunctatus) will attack several agave species in the low desert of Arizona.

Additional comments: Even though there are many variegated cultivars of interest (three listed below), century plant is generally too large and dangerous to be of much use in today's small and fragmented urban landscapes spaces. There are about 200 species of Agave are native North America, several of which such as A. desmettiana are smaller and less dangerous to people.

Some of the popular cultivated varieties with variegated leaf patterns include:

Century plant ethno botany: The stem cortex of century plant is very rich in saccharine matter and can be eaten when baked. Sweet and nutritious, but rather fibrous. The seed can be ground into a flour and used as a thickener in soups or used with cereal flours when making bread. The flower stalk is roasted and used like asparagus. Sap from the flowering stems is used as a syrup or fermented into pulque or mescal. The sap can also be tapped by boring a hole into the middle of the plant at the base of the flowering stem

Century plant is antiseptic. The sap is diaphoretic, diuretic and laxative. An infusion of the chopped leaf is purgative and the juice of the leaves is applied to bruises. The plant is used internally in the treatment of indigestion, flatulence, constipation, jaundice and dysentery. Steroid drug precursors are obtained from the leaves. A gum from the root and leaf is used in the treatment of toothache. The root is diaphoretic and diuretic. It is used in the treatment of syphilis. All parts of the plant can be harvested for use as required, they can also be dried for later use. The dried leaves and roots store well.

Mexican tequila is a type of mezcal, but all mezcals are not tequila. True Mexican tequila is derived from Agave tequilana var. Weber's azul (blue).

Agave ("illustrious") was the queen of Thebes in Greek mythology.