Herbs & Plants

Agave murpheyi

Botanical Name: Agave murpheyi
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Genus: Agave
Species: A. murpheyi

Common Names: Hohokam agave, Murphey agave, and Murphey’s century plant

Habitat: Agave murpheyi is native to Southern-central Arizona (U.S.A., Northern America) from the Bradshaw and New River Mountains, east to the Sierra Ancha Mountains and northern Sonora desert (Mexico). It grows in warm temperate to subtropical highlands, arid to semi-arid. Plants are usually found in close proximity of major drainage systems on open, hilly slopes or alluvial terraces in desert scrub with pre-Columbian agricultural and settlement features. Agave murpheyi grows at elevations from 400 to 900 meters.

Agave murpheyi is an evergreen Perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a slow rate. It agave produces a rosette of leaves up to 80 centimeters long by 20 centimeters wide in shades of green to blue-green with pale banding. They develop a red coloration during flowering. The leaves may curl slightly toward the center. They are lined with small, straight teeth and tipped with a spine up to 2 centimeters long. The plant produces an inflorescence 3 to 4 meters tall with many flowers along the branches. The flowers are greenish with purple or brown tips and are up to 7.5 centimeters long. The fruit is a woody capsule 5 to 7 centimeters long containing seeds but these are rarely produced with the flowers aborting before the fruits form. Despite being untended for more than 500 years Hohokam agave continue to grow at a few old archaeological sites. This agave produces only by bulbils and hybridizes with Agave chrysantha in Arizona (almost all species labeled as Murphey agave are in fact hybrids with the Murphey agave being a hybrid of Agave palmeri x vivipara).


Climate: warm temperate, tropical highlands. Humidity: arid to semi-arid. Grow it in porous soil with adequate drainage. It should be grown in full sun. The leaves will keep their blue-gray colour and the plants will stay more compact. Water thoroughly when soil is dry to the touch, with supplemental water during hottest part of year. In winter watering this plant can be done once every 1-2 months, there is no need to mist the leaves. It is a cold hardy species. Agave murpheyi grows at elevations from 400 to 900 meters. Agave was cultivated by the Hohokam Indians in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico in rocky areas above the floodplain of the Santa Cruz river where more water-dependent crops were grown. The Hohokam planted agave in rockpiles about 5 ft (1.5 m) across and 2 ft (0.61 m) high. The pile of rocks around the base of the agave plant act as a mulch to help preserve moisture and prevent rodent predation. Hardy to at least -12° C. Carbon Farming Solutions – Cultivation: historic crop. Management: standard (Describes the non-destructive management systems that are used in cultivation.

Edible Uses:
Edible Portion: Heart, Growing tip. Agave murpheyi was cultivated by the Hohokam and possibly other Native Americans for both food and fiber. For food the basal rosette was harvested just before the Hohokam agave sent up a flower stalk. At this time the concentration of sugars in the rosette is at its highest The rosettes weighing about 4 kg were cooked for two or three days in a pit filled with hot stones and covered with hot coals and dirt. The baked rosette compared in taste to a sweet potato (although containing inedible fiber) is nutritious with 347 calories and 3.5 grams of protein per 100 grams. Carbon Farming Solutions – Staple Crop: basic starch (The term staple crop typically refers to a food that is eaten routinely and accounts for a dominant part of people’s diets in a particular region of the world).

Other Uses:Agave murpheyi was cultivated by the Hohokam and possibly other Native Americans for both food and fiber. A good potted plant. An excellent garden landscape plants. Accent Plant.

Known Hazards: Sharp Leaves.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only.


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