Thursday, November 8, 2007

One Mean Agave

Agave lophantha

The Agave lophantha is a beautiful agave with its dark green leaves and yellow middle stripe, but the curved downward facing marginal spines are brutal. We have a natural tendency to jerk back when something punctures the skin, and that’s when those spines dig in a rip the flesh. Because of this, my A. lophantha usually has mesquite leaf litter and other trash around its base. As far as I’m concerned, it can stay there. I’ve been punctured and torn too many times to be bothered by it.

I purchased two A. lophantha several years ago. They were in 24-inch wooden boxes, with numerous pups growing out of the spaces between the slats. The nursery sold both of them to me for the price of one, along with a 40 percent discount on top of that, just to get rid of them. Then to sweeten the deal they offered to deliver and plant them for me. I just couldn’t pass it up. However, if I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have purchased them, regardless of the bargain, now that I know how freely they offset. In the past two years, I’ve removed 55 pups from the two.

This South Texas and Eastern New Mexico native, commonly known as Thorncrest Century Plant, does better in light shade in Phoenix. My A. lophantha have a southeast exposure, and suffer some sun scorch each summer, but it’s only temporary. They quickly recover in the fall. It is hardy to 10°F, and sailed through our hard freeze with no damage, unlike other Agave species that I have in my garden.

One of these summers, the A. lophantha will send up an unbranched flower stalk that can reach 12 feet high. The flowers will be a greenish-yellow. Once that happens, the plant will die. If there are any pups around it, they will then replace it. If not, then that’s ok with me.

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