Agave Americana

Botanical Name: Agave americana
Family : Agavaceae/Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus : Agave
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Genus: Agave
Species: A. americana

Synonym(s) : Agave cantula, Agave cantala

Sanskrit Synonyms : Kandala

Common Names: Centuryplant,  Maguey, or American aloe

Local Indian  name: Kithanara
English Name : Century plant, Maguey, American Aloe
Hindi : Bharakhawar, Rakshpattah
Malayalam : Ageve, Anakaita, Eropakaita, Kandalachedi

Habitat : Agavaceae, originally native to Mexico, and the United States in Arizona and Texas. Today it cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant. It has become naturalized in many regions including the West Indies, parts of South America, the southern Mediterranean Basin, parts of Africa, India, China, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia. It grows on  sandy places in desert scrub at elevations around 200 metres in Texas and eastern Mexico.


Description:

An evergreen Perennial growing to 7.5m by 2.5m at a slow rate.It has a spreading rosette (about 4 m/13 ft wide) of gray-green leaves up to 2 m (6.6 ft) long, each with a spiny margin and a heavy spike at the tip that can pierce to the bone. Its common name derives from its habit of only occasionally flowering, but when it does, the spike with a cyme of big yellow flowers may reach up to 8 m (26 ft) in height. The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers or adventitious shoots from the base, which continue its growth.

Although it is called the century plant, it typically lives only 10 to 30 years. It has a spread of about 6–10 ft (1.8–3.0 m) with gray-green leaves of 3–5 ft (0.9–1.5 m) long, each with a prickly margin and a heavy spike at the tip that can pierce to the bone. Near the end of its life, the plant sends up a tall, branched stalk, laden with yellow blossoms, that may reach a total height of up to 25–30 ft (8–9 m) tall….....CLICK & SEE

Its common name derives from its semelparous nature of flowering only once at the end of its long life. The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers or adventitious shoots from the base, which continue its growth

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The average lifespan is around 10 years.

Cultivated varieties include the “marginata” with yellow stripes along the margins of each leaf, “medio-picta” with a central white band, “striata” with multiple yellow to white stripes along the leaves, and “variegata” with white edges on the leaves

It is hardy to zone 9 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies), bats.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.


Cultivation
:-
Requires a very well-drained soil and a sunny position. The agave is not very hardy in Britain tolerating temperatures down to about -3°c if conditions are not wet. It succeeds outdoors on the south coast of England from Torbay westwards. Plants survived lower temperatures during the very cold winters from 1985/1987 and were unharmed at Glendurgan gardens in West Cornwall. 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. 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.

Propagation:-

Seed surface sow in a light position, April in a warm greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 1 – 3 months at 20°c. 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. Offsets can be potted up at any time they are available. Keep in a warm greenhouse until they are well established

Different Uses:
If the flower stem is cut without flowering, a sweet liquid called agua miel (“honey water”) gathers in the heart of the plant. This may be fermented to produce the drink called pulque. The leaves also yield fibers, known as pita, which are suitable for making rope, matting, coarse cloth and are used for embroidery of leather in a technique known as piteado. Both pulque and maguey fibre were important to the economy of pre-Columbian Mexico. Production continues today to a much lesser extent. Agave nectar (also called agave syrup) has recently been marketed as a healthful natural sugar substitute…....CLICK  &   SEE
The sap is quite acidic and can be quite painful if it comes in contact with the skin. It can form small blisters.

Tequila is made from a different species, the Blue Agave (A. tequilana).

Edible Uses:-
Edible Parts: Leaves; Sap; Seed; Stem.

The heart of the plant is very rich in saccharine matter and can be eaten when baked. Sweet and nutritious, but rather fibrous. It is partly below ground. Seed – ground into a flour and used as a thickener in soups or used with cereal flours when making bread. Flower stalk – roasted. Used like asparagus. Sap from the cut 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.

Medicinal Actions & Uses:-
Antiseptic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Laxative; 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. The sap can also be taken internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery etc. The sap is antiseptic, 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. The sap has disinfectant properties and can be taken internally to check the growth of putrefactive bacteria in the stomach and intestines. 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.

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.

leaves used medicinally by Indians of the Southwestern US.  Also a modern source of steroids.  A demulcent, laxative and antiseptic, agave sap is a soothing and restorative remedy for many digestive ailments. It is used to treat ulcers and inflammatory conditions affecting the stomach and intestines, protecting these parts from infection and irritation and encouraging healing. Agave has also been employed to treat a wide range of other conditions, including syphilis, tuberculosis, jaundice, and liver disease.  Agave sap has very soothing properties and can be used interchangeably with aloe vera on topical wounds and burns.  The sisal agave is a source of hecogenin, the substance that is the starting point in the production of corticosteroids.  Water in which agave fiber has been soaked for a day can be used as a scalp disinfectant and tonic in cases of falling hair.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Other Uses:-
Fibre; Insecticide; Miscellany; Needles; Paper; Pins; Soap; Soil reclamation; Thatching.

The plant contains saponins. An extract of the leaves is used as a soap. The roots are used according to another report. It is likely that the root is the best source of the saponins that are used to make a soap.

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. There is a report that the plant has insecticidal properties, but further details are not given. A very strong fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making rope, coarse fabrics etc. A paper can also be made from the leaves. The thorns on the leaves are used as pins and needles. The dried flowering stems are used as a waterproof thatch and as a razor strop. The plants are used in land-reclamation schemes in arid areas of the world.

The leaves also yield fibers, known as pita, which are suitable for making rope, matting, coarse cloth and are used for embroidery of leather in a technique known as piteado. Both pulque and maguey fibre were important to the economy of pre-Columbian Mexico. Production continues today to a much lesser extent.

Agave nectar (also called agave syrup) has recently been marketed as a healthful natural sugar substitute


Known Hazards
:    Contact with the fresh sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive people. The plants have a   very sharp and tough spine at the tip of each leaf. They need to be carefully sited in the garden.

Resources:

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Agave+americana
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agave_americana

http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1102&context=eblhttp://www.impgc.com/plantinfo_A.php?id=514&bc=http://ayurvedicmedicinalplants.com/plants/1269.html

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm

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