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Origin and Habitat: Mexico (widespread from Sonora and Chihuahua to the South), Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua. El Salvador, Panama. Agave angustifolia has escaped from cultivation as a garden ornamental and become an environmental weed in Republic of South Africa, Mauritius and Reunion (Western Indian Ocean:) and in Queensland (Australia). It is cultivated elsewhere.
Altitude range: This specie grows at low to middle elevations (to 1500 m, rarely more)
Habitat and ecology: This is a sun-loving taxon (although also not rarely found with etiolated growth in light shade) occuring in nearly all vegetation types mainly in tropical savannas, thorn forest, and tropical deciduous forests. It depends on bees, wasps, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, orioles, sphingids and nectar-feeding bats pollinators. The plant species produces greater nocturnal nectar secretions than during the day, when the bat is most active. In addition, flower maturation occurs when the bat is present during spring and summer months. Agave angustifolia flowers January to May. Fruits start developing in February to April and are mature May to July.
- Agave angustifolia Haw.
Agave angustifolia Haw.
Syn. Pl. Succ. 1: 72. 1812
- Agave angustifolia Haw.
- Agave aboriginum Trel.
- Agave angustifolia var. deweyana (Trel.) Gentry
- Agave angustifolia var. letonae (F.W.Taylor ex Trel.) Gentry
- Agave angustifolia var. marginata hort. ex Gentry
- Agave angustifolia var. nivea (Trel.) Gentry
- Agave angustifolia var. rubescens (Salm-Dyck) P.I.Forst.
- Agave angustifolia subs. rubescens (Salm-Dyck) Valenz.-Zap. & Nabhan
- Agave rubescens Salm-Dyck
- Agave vivipara var. rubescens (Salm-Dyck) P.I.Forst.
- Agave angustifolia var. sargentii Trel.
- Agave vivipara var. sargentii (Trel.) P.I.Forst.
- Agave angustifolia var. variegata Trel.
- Agave vivipara cv. variegata (Trel.) P.I.Forst.
- Agave bergeri Trel. ex A.Berger
- Agave breedlovei Gentry
- Agave costaricana Gentry
- Agave cuspidata Baker
- Agave donnell-smithii Trel.
- Agave elongata Jacobi
- Agave endlichiana Trel.
- Agave erubescens Ellemeet
- Agave excelsa Jacobi
- Agave ixtli var. excelsa (Jacobi) A.Terracc.
- Agave flavovirens Jacobi
- Agave houlletii Jacobi
- Agave ixtli Karw. ex Salm-Dyck
- Agave ixtlioides Hook.f.
- Agave jacquiniana Schult. & Schult.f.
- Agave lurida var. jacquiniana (Schult. & Schult.f.) Ker Gawl. ex Hemsl.
- Agave vera-cruz var. jacquiniana (Schult.) Asch. & Graebner
- Agave kirchneriana A.Berger
- Agave lespinassei Trel.
- Agave lurida Jacq.
- Agave owenii I.M.Johnst.
- Agave pacifica Trel.
- Agave panamana Trel.
- Agave prainiana A.Berger
- Agave prolifera Schott ex Standl.
- Agave punctata Kunth
- Agave rigida Spin
- Agave rigida Mill.
- Furcraea rigida (Mill.) Haw.
- Agave rigida var. elongata Anonymus
- Agave rigida var. longifolia Engelm.
- Agave serrulata Karw.
- Agave sicifolia Trel.
- Agave sobolifera var. serrulata A.Terracc.
- Agave spectabilis Tod.
- Agave theoxmuliana Karw. ex M.Roem.
- Agave vivipara var. woodrowii hort. ex A.Berger
- Agave wightii J.R.Drumm. & Prain
- Agave yaquiana Trel.
- Agave yxtli Karw. ex Don
- Agave zapupe Trel.
Agave angustifolia var. pes-mulae (Trel.) Valenz.-Zap. & Nabhan
Tequila Nat. Cult. Hist. 101. 2003
RUSSIAN (Русский): Агава живородящая, Агава вивипара
SPANISH (Español): Espadín, Lechugilla
Description: Agave angustifolia (also known with the misapplied synonyms Agave vivipara), is a narrow-leaved agave with yellow to green flowers. It is by far one the most wide-ranging species of the family and exhibits an extensive range of variation from which many cultivated varieties have been derived. Stems may be very short or up to 20 - 60 (-90) cm long. Leaves may be few or many, variable in colour from green to yellowish green to nearly white glaucous grey or bluish. Generally they are narrow sword shaped leaves, but atypical broadened forms are also reported. Teeth are small and up-curved, but quite variable in size and spacing. Terminal spines may be long and thin or very short and broad, decurrent or non-decurrent. Flowers varies in size too. On the whole they are weak flowers, quickly passing, the sepals drying reflexed. Altogether, these variations illustrate that Agave angustifolia is a freely seeding outbreeding complex, that has been widely assorted by circumstances of habitat, changing climates over a long period of time, and man's interventions. Suckering is very prevalent, but it may be early or late in the life cycle.
Taxonomy: The name Agave angustifolia, under which the widespread Mexican /Central American taxon was since long known, seems to represents a homotypic synonym of Agave vivipara and is also considered taxonomically identical by some authors (Wijnands 1983, and Forster 1992). Other sources maintain them as distinct species with non-overlapping native distributions (García-Mendoza and Fernando Chiang 2003). In general A. angustifolia should have narrower, stiffly erect leaves with moderately-spaced spines, producing capsules, not bulibiferous; whereas A. vivipara is described as having shorter, recurved leaves with short-spaced spines and bulbiferous. A. vivipara is likely similar to Agave karatto. The A. vivipara of Miller (1768) and Smith et al. (2008) seem different, of a much smaller habit and narrower leaves, from the A. vivipara of Trelease (1913) and García-Mendoza and Fernando Chiang (2003), of a much larger habit. Recent biotechnology literature (such as Simpson et al, 2011) seems to have accepted them as two separate species. AG Valensuela Zapata & GP Nabhan (2003) also stated in their book that it has been generally accepted that A. vivipara L. has priority over Agave cantala. Also the widely grown Agave tequilana, which is differentiated as its own species, is regarded by many botanists as nothing else than a form of A. angustifolia and they consider this separation to be nominal only.
Rosettes: Radiately spreading, surculose.
Leaves: Linear to (very broadly) lanceolate, ascending to horizontal, mostly rigid, hard-fleshy, fibrous, narrowed and thickened towards the base, full-grown generally (40-) 60 - 120 x 3.5 - 10 (-20) cm wide, light green to glaucous-grey, margins straight to undulate, sometimes thinly cartilaginous; marginal teeth generally small, 2-5 mm, rarely longer, commonly reddish-brown or dark brown, evenly and closely spaced or remote. Terminal spines variable, conical to subulate, flat to shallowly grooved above, 1.5 - 3.5 cm long, dark brown, greying with age, not or thinly decurrent.
Inflorescence: Mostly 3 - 5 m tall growing or arranged in a panicle, open, part-inflorescences horizontally spreading to ascending, 10-20. While few or profuse bulbils have been observed, vivipary is generally uncommon, even on panicles where seed does not develop.
Flowers: (40-) 50 - 65 mm. Perianth (outer part of the flower) consisting of segments (tepals) that distinctly unite below forming a tube. Ovary small, tapering at the base, 20 - 30 mm, neck short; Tepals green to yellow, quickly wilting, drying reflexed along the tube, tube (4-) 8 - 16 mm, lobes unequal, (15-) 18 -24 mm long.
Chromosome number: 2n = 60, 120, 180.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Agave angustifolia group
- Agave angustifolia Haw.: is a narrow-leaved agave with yellow to green flowers. It exhibits an extensive range of variation from which many cultivated varieties have been derived. Distribution: Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama. Naturalized in South Africa, Mauritius, Reunion, and Australia.
- Agave angustifolia var. deweyana (Trel.) Gentry: not well marked with various cultivated clones. The type is a narrow leaf 5-6 cm wide, while later collections have wider leaves, 100-115 long and 7-10 cm wide, and more remote teeth. Distribution: cultivated, Victoria, Tamaulipas, Mexico
- Agave angustifolia var. letonae (F.W.Taylor ex Trel.) Gentry: This is a robust, nearly white-leaved plant, developing a broad trunk with several years of leaf cutting. Distribution: cultivated. Guatemala and El Salvador.
- Agave angustifolia var. marginata hort. ex Gentry: has broad white marginal strips and a more greyish colour. Distribution: cultivated as an ornamental around the world.
- Agave angustifolia var. nivea (Trel.) Gentry: is a long-leaved, short-stemmed plant, the leaves a dull bluish grey, 130-140 long 9-10 cm wide. Distribution: cultivated. El Rancho, Dept. dc Progreso. Guatemala.
- Agave angustifolia var. rubescens (Salm-Dyck) P.I.Forst.: has narrow, less rigid leaves 80-130 cm long by 3-4 (-5) cm wide. The cartilaginous margin of the leaves is very thin and inconspicuous. The flowers are small. Distribution: Isthmus of Tehuantepec to southern Sonora, mexico.
- Agave angustifolia var. sargentii Trel.: dwarf with trunk ca. 25 cm high with numerous leaves, spreading, straight, greyish green, 25-30 cm long, 2.5-3 wide. Distribution: Puebla, on Puebla-Tlaxcala road, Mexico.
- Agave angustifolia var. variegata Trel.: Is closely allied to var. marginata, but has the marginal white in unusual width and the remainder of the leaf silvery gray or milky. Origin: it has arisen in the botanical garden of the College of Science at Poona, India.
- Agave tequilana F.A.C.Weber: It is very similar to Agave angustifolia but has larger leaves, thicker stems, heavier inflorescences with larger ﬂowers and shorter tubes. Distribution: Cultivated in Jalisco near Tequila, Mexico.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Smith, G. F. & E. M. A. Steyn. “Agave vivipara: the correct name for Agave angustifolia.” Bothalia 29:100. [= A. vivipara L.].1999.
2) FORSTER, PI. “New varietal combinations in Agave vivipara(Agavaceae).” Brittonia 44: 74-75. 1992.
3) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons” Springer Science & Business Media, 06 December 2012
4) Howard Scott Gentry “Agaves of Continental North America” University of Arizona Press, 01 February 2004
5) WIJNANDS, O. “The botany of the Commelins”. Balkema, Rotterdam.1983.
6) Abisaí García-Mendoza and Fernando Chiang “The Confusion of Agave vivipara L. and A. angustifolia Haw., Two Distinct Taxa” Brittonia Vol. 55, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 2003), pp. 82-87
7) Molina-Freaner, F. & Eguiarte, L. E. 2003. "The pollination biology of two paniculate agaves (Agavaceae) from northwestern Mexico: contrasting roles of bats as pollinators." American Journal of Botany 90: 1016-1024. available at: http://www.amjbot.org/content/90/7/1016.full#cited-by; accessed on: Oct 9, 2015.
8) R.P and B.F. Hansen. 2003. "Guide to the vascular plants of Florida," 2nd edition. University Press of Florida. Gainesville. Wyatt, R. 1983
9) Gentry, H. S. “The agave family in Sonora.” U.S.D.A. Agric. Handb. 399:143, 147. [mentions]. 1972.
10) Valenzuela-Zapata, A. G., Lopez-Muraira, I. & Gaytan, M. S. “Traditional Knowledge, Agave inaequidens(Koch) Conservation, and the Charro Lariat Articans of San Miguel Cuyután,” Mexico. Society of Ethnobiology 2: 72-80. 2011.
11) Amy Chang “Overview of Uses and Cultivation of A. angustifolia” <http://eol.org/data_objects/25279753> Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
12) Wikipedia contributors. "Agave angustifolia." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 Oct. 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
13) Bosser, J. M. et al., “Flores des Mascareignes.” 1976.
14) Davidse, G. et al., “Flora mesoamericana.” 1994.
15) Encke, F. et al. “Zander: Handwörterbuch der Pflanzennamen” 13 edition 1984.
16) Facciola, S. “Cornucopia II: a source book of edible plants”.1998.
17) Mohr, Gary M. Jr. (1999) "Blue Agave and Its Importance in the Tequila Industry," Ethnobotanical Leaflets: Vol. 1999: Iss. 3, Article 2.
Available at: http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/ebl/vol1999/iss3/2
18) García-Mendoza, A. & F. Chiang. “The confusion of Agave vivipara L. and A. angustifolia Haw., two distinct taxa.” Brittonia 55:82–87. 2003.
19) Vargas-Ponce, O. et al. “Diversity and structure of landraces of Agave grown by spirits under traditional agricultural: A comparison with wild populations of A. angustifolia (Agavaceae) and commercial plantations of A. tequilana.” Amer. J. Bot. 96:448–457. 2009.
28) Vázquez-García et al. “Flora del norte de Jalisco y etnobotánica Huichola.” Serie Fronteras de Biodivesidad. 1:58. 2004.
20) Steyn, E. M. A. & G. F. Smith. “Agave vivipara: a naturalized alien in Southern Africa.” Bothalia 30:43–55. [= A. vivipara L.]. 2000.
21) George, A. S., ed. “Flora of Australia. [= A. vivipara L.].” 1980.
22) Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. “Hortus third.” 1976.
23) McVaugh, R. “Flora Novo-Galiciana.” 1983.
Cultivation and Propagation: Agave angustifolia is a great Agaves for containers because of its usually small size, it is often
offered for sale at nurseries and is frequently grown as a garden ornamental, as a hedge plant or as a barrier plant (especially the variegated forms).
Exposure:They need full sun to partial shade or very high interior lighting.
Watering: Plants are not so drought tolerant and requires more water than most agave species. Plants should be watered and allowed to dry before watering again. Ground cultivated plant are more tollerant to drought, and salty seaside conditions. Little if any irrigation is needed to maintain the plant once established.
Fertilization: Fertilize only once during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer.
Hardiness: When grown as a houseplant, the temperature should never drop below 10° C. Not too frost tolerant, during the winter months, only water enough to keep the leaves from shriveling.
Traditional uses: Agave angustifolia provides many products and has been used to provide food and daily use objects since Aztec times. It is traditionally used by the indigenous groups in Mexico as a source of fiber to make ropes and ties. Spines at the ends of leaves have traditionally been used to make pins and needles. The woody inflorescence stems continue to be used as posts, rafters and fences and leaves are used for thatching or to provide forage, fuel and forage.The flower buds, flowers, stems, leaf bases, peduncles of young flowers and fruits can all be eaten and continue to be eaten as traditional foods in some parts of western Mexico. The stems are cooked and their juice extracted fermented and distilled to make a variety of alcoholic beverages. Soap and other products are also made from the fibres and pulp. Additionally, many traditional medicines can be derived from this plant. The juice of the leaves and stems as well as root infusions and teas can be taken internally or used as poultices for both internal and external swelling, bruises, liver and kidney disease, arthritis and dysentery.
Warning: The sharp spine at the tip of its toothed leaves is sometime removed to protect people.
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