Botanical Name: Agave utahensis
Species: A. utahensis
*Agave haynaldii var. utahensis (Engelm.) Terracciano
*Agave newberryi Engelm.
*Agave scaphoidea Greenm. & Ronst.
*Agave utahensis var. discreta M.E.Jones
*Agave utahensis var. scaphoidea M.E.Jones
Common Names: Utah agave,Century Plant
Habitat: Agave utahensis is native to South-western N. America – found in the Grand Canyon. It grows on dry stony limestone slopes, 1000 – 1500 metres.
Agave utahensis discreta is an evergreen Perennial growing to 4 m (13ft) by 2 m (6ft).
It is in leaf all year. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Moths, bats.
Agave utahensis is a rosette-shaped agave having blue-green sharp-spiked leaves.
The raceme inflorescence is very tall, reaching a maximum of 4 m (12 ft). It is generally yellow or yellow-green with bulbous yellow flowers. The fruits are capsules 1 to 3 centimeters long and containing black seed.
Requires a very well-drained soil and a sunny position. Plants are only hardy on the south coast of England, where they succeed from Torbay westwards. 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 take 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. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer
The heart of the plant is very rich in saccharine matter and can be eaten when baked. Sweet and delicious, but rather fibrous. It is partly below ground. Can be dried for future use or soaked in water to produce a flavourful beverage. Seed – ground into a flour. Flower stalk – roasted. Root – cooked. Sap from the cut flowering stems is used as a syrup. The sap can also be tapped by boring a hole into the middle of the plant at the base of the flowering stem. It can be fermented into ‘Mescal’, a very potent alcoholic drink.
The sap is antiseptic, diuretic and laxative.
The leaves contain saponins and an extract of them can be used as a soap. It is best obtained by chopping up the leaves and then simmering them in water – do not boil for too long or this will start to break down the saponins. A very strong fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making rope, coarse fabrics etc. To make hair brushes and brushes for cleaning, the dried matter of a dead and rotten leaf was knocked free from the fibres, which were then bent in two. the upper end of this brush was wrapped with a cord and the bent portion was covered with a cloth. The loose fibres were cut to the right length and hardened by burning the ends. A paper can also be made from the fibre in 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.
Agave utahensis is cultivated as an ornamental plant. In the UK it has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
The plant was used for food and fiber by local Native American peoples such as the Havasupai. Among the Navajo, the plant is used to make blankets.
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