Friday, December 2, 2011


Small Agave Americana

Agave (Americana)

There is no good nor evil in nature, there is only adaptation.

"Nature is reckless of the individual." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

The agave plant is a beautiful species that inhabits most of the deserts of the southwest United States, much of Mexico, and South America. Man has transported many species around the world and they have adapted to many different climates. It is a very useful plant in that its fibers can be used for cloth, sweet syrups can be made from the blooms, and the famous liquor Mescal is made from the heart of the plant. Agaves are not related in any way to the aloe. They are most closely related to the yucca and are not a cactus.

When I was young, I had a cactus garden where I had planted many different species of succulents, cactus, and other desert plants. I had 3 different species of agave and loved the beauty and symmetry of the leaves.

Agave Americana seriously dehydrated
A neighbor has recently given me a tiny agave. She received one in a plant exchange they had at her school. It is definitely in very sad shape and needs some TLC. I am in the process of giving it enough water to sustain it through the planting process.

Agaves, especially the A. Americana, are probably the most dangerous desert plant you can find. The leaves have an extremely sharp spine on the tip that can penetrate through your entire body, stopping only if it encounters a bone. These plants were the most dangerous for any horse rider. Falling onto an agave plant from above was certain impalement. Cacti, and other desert plants do not have that kind of danger. While you can get infections from getting poked by multiple spines, the spines generally only inflict painful wounds that can be easily treated once you find a good medic. (The only exception to this is the Saguaro. That large cactus has been the means of many people's death due to crushing because of the shear weight of it, usually because of them stupidly doing something like chopping one down, or running into one with a vehicle.) Puncture of your heart, lungs, or other vital organs by an agave leaf is not so easy to treat.

Agave in the Sedona area
As I was growing up, I found that there were 3 kinds of people who grew agave. The first was the newcomer who wasn't aware of how really dangerous agave plants are to have around. They would grow them but after being poked seriously a few times, they often would dig them out and plant a less dangerous species like a true cactus or desert tree or give up on spiny desert foliage because of how easily one can be injured by most of them. The second kind, grew them much as I did to create a space of true desert beauty in their garden spaces. They would often place them around other prickly desert plants and keep them where they could be observed safely. The third are the kind who grow them to purposefully injure those who would trespass. There is a large group of people who fit in the third category in the desert southwest. That, to me, is evil.

I have a love for all plants, but I will not keep this one. Once I have revived it and been able to get it established, I will find someone who fits the second category and give it to them. I do not like to be associated with the third group and so will not keep agaves around my neighborhood, family, nor friends.