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Agave americana - L.
Common Name Agave, American century plant
Family Agavaceae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards Contact with the fresh sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive people[218, 238]. The plants have a very sharp and tough spine at the tip of each leaf. They need to be carefully sited in the garden.
Habitats Original habitat is unknown but it grows wild in Mexico on cultivated land and in pine woods[11]. Sandy places in desert scrub at elevations around 200 metres in Texas and eastern Mexico[270].
Range South-western N. America. Naturalized in the Mediterranean[11].
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Half Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

Bloom Color: White, Yellow. Form: Rounded.

Agave americana Agave, American century plant

Agave americana Agave, American century plant
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Agave americana is an evergreen Perennial growing to 7.5 m (24ft) by 2.5 m (8ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 9 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera, bats.Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.


 Cultivated Beds; South Wall. By. West Wall. By.
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Leaves;  Sap;  Seed;  Stem.
Edible Uses:

The heart of the plant is very rich in saccharine matter and can be eaten when baked[2, 92, 183]. Sweet and nutritious, but rather fibrous[213]. It is partly below ground[85]. Seed - ground into a flour and used as a thickener in soups or used with cereal flours when making bread[92]. Flower stalk - roasted[92, 95]. Used like asparagus[183]. Sap from the cut flowering stems is used as a syrup[177] or fermented into pulque or mescal[183]. The sap can also be tapped by boring a hole into the middle of the plant at the base of the flowering stem[213].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiseptic;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Laxative;  Miscellany;  Miscellany;  Odontalgic;  VD.

The sap of agaves has long been used in Central America as a binding agent for various powders used as poultices on wounds[254]. The sap can also be taken internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery etc[254]. The sap is antiseptic, diaphoretic, diuretic and laxative[21, 218, 240]. An infusion of the chopped leaf is purgative and the juice of the leaves is applied to bruises[218]. The plant is used internally in the treatment of indigestion, flatulence, constipation, jaundice and dysentery[238]. The sap has disinfectant properties and can be taken internally to check the growth of putrefactive bacteria in the stomach and intestines[21]. Water in which agave fibre has been soaked for a day can be used as a scalp disinfectant and tonic in cases of falling hair[21]. Steroid drug precursors are obtained from the leaves[238]. A gum from the root and leaf is used in the treatment of toothache[218]. The root is diaphoretic and diuretic[240]. It is used in the treatment of syphilis[218, 240]. 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[238].
Other Uses
Fibre;  Insecticide;  Miscellany;  Miscellany;  Needles;  Paper;  Pins;  Soap;  Soil reclamation;  Thatching.

The plant contains saponins. An extract of the leaves is used as a soap[2]. The roots are used according to another report[238]. It is likely that the root is the best source of the saponins that are used to make a soap[K]. Chop up the leaves or the roots into small pieces and then simmer them in water to extract the saponins. Do not over boil or you will start to break down the saponins[K]. There is a report that the plant has insecticidal properties, but further details are not given[218, 238]. A very strong fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making rope, coarse fabrics etc[2, 61, 92, 238]. A paper can also be made from the leaves[2]. The thorns on the leaves are used as pins and needles[2]. The dried flowering stems are used as a waterproof thatch[2] and as a razor strop[89]. The plants are used in land-reclamation schemes in arid areas of the world[238].
Cultivation details
Landscape Uses:Container, Massing, Rock garden, Seashore, Specimen. Requires a very well-drained soil and a sunny position[1, 200]. The agave is not very hardy in Britain tolerating temperatures down to about -3°c if conditions are not wet[260]. It succeeds outdoors on the south coast of England from Torbay westwards[11]. Plants survived lower temperatures during the very cold winters from 1985/1987 and were unharmed at Glendurgan gardens in West Cornwall[K]. A monocarpic species, the plant lives for a number of years without flowering but dies once it does flower. However, it normally produces plenty of suckers during its life and these continue growing, taking about 10 - 15 years in a warm climate, considerably longer in colder ones, before flowering[11]. This plant is widely used by the native people in its wild habitat, it has a wide range of uses. In a warm climate suckers take 10 - 15 years to come into flower. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233]. Special Features:Attracts birds, Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Flowers are rare, Blooms are very showy.
Seed - surface sow in a light position, April in a warm greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 20°c[133]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of well-drained soil when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a sunny position in the greenhouse until they are at least 20cm tall. Plant out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts, and give some protection from the cold for at least their first few winters[K]. Offsets can be potted up at any time they are available. Keep in a warm greenhouse until they are well established[200].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Agave parryiCentury Plant, Parry's agave, Mescal31
Agave utahensis discretaCentury Plant31
Agave utahensis eborispinaCentury Plant31
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Readers comment
Elizabeth H.
alexis mj rosell Mon Apr 26 11:29:39 2004
In NE Catalonia they use peeled pieces of leves against lung diseases (neumonia) and heart failure (angina). They fry the white pieces in olive oil until they become golden. They aplly one pice onto the fore chest and another one onto the back, at the place most needing.
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Subject : Agave americana  

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