Agave attenuata Salm-Dyck.


Liliaceae (Lily Family)


Tropical America



                                           January Photo


Plant Characteristics:  Succulent, growing in clumps to 5 ft. across, older plants develop a stout trunk to 5 ft. tall; leaves to 2.5 ft. long, soft green or gray green, fleshy, somewhat translucent, no spines; fls. greenish-yellow, dense on arching spikes, to 12-14 ft. long.


Habitat:  Good near ocean or pool in S. Calif.  Will be burned by hot sun and damaged by heavy frost.  (Sunset Editors, New Western Garden Book, 1984. 171).  Three hundred or more species of striking plants, in the arid and semi-arid trop. parts of the western hemisphere.  (Bailey 238).


Name:  Greek, agave, noble or admirable.  (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 864).  Attenuata, produced to a point.  (Bailey 11).  Attenuata refers to the leaf tips which are produced to a point.  (John Johnson).


General:  Uncommon in the study area, found as an escape from cultivation.  Plants, such as the photographed specimen, that occur on the lower bluff were probably thrown there as cuttings from gardens above. (my comments).       After flowering, which may take years, the foliage clump dies, usually leaving behind suckers which may make new plants.  Drought resistant, the plants shrivel from serious lack of water but plump up again when watered or rained on.  (Sunset Editors, New Western Garden Book, 1984. 171).      The sap of the leaves and inflorescence are toxic.  Fresh juice of the plant is cathartic and diuretic.  The juice of the leaf and particularly the outer layers of the leaf are highly irritant to the skin.  (Fuller 265).       The leaves and roots of Agave spp. contain sapogenins, hecogenin and tigogenin, soapy substances used in manufacturing steroids.  A teaspoon of the expressed leaf sap or one-fourth ounce of the dried leaf boiled in a tea helps indigestion, stomach fermentation, and chronic constipation.  The fresh sap is used for burns, cuts, and skin abrasions.  The root, fresh or dried, makes a useful soap and, like yucca, has been used for arthritis.  (Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West 19).      A family of about 19 genera and 500 species, usually put partly in Liliaceae and partly in Amaryllidaceae.  (Bailey 237).       Agavaceae has been included in Liliaceae in the new Jepson Manual.   (Hickman, Ed. 1170).         Comparison of the DNA sequences for various genes, usually those found in the chloroplast of the plant cell has led biologists to propose many changes in the plant families as they are now known.  It is proposed to move the genus Agave from Liliaceae back to Agavaceae.  (Kelch, Dean G. “Consider the Lilies” FREMONTIA, A Journal of the California Native Plant Society Vol. 30 No. 2 April 2002 pp. 23-29).


Text Ref:  Sunset Editors, New Western Garden Book, 1984. 171.

Photo Ref:  May 1 88 # 24; Sept-Jan 90,91 #19,20,21,22.

Identity: by R. De Ruff.

First Found:  January 1991.


Computer Ref:  Plant Data 357.

No plant specimen.

Last edit 5/27/04.  


                               January Photo                                                                      January Photo