Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Prickley and Nice
Agave americana variety medio picta alba, Century Plant. The gray-green form is native to Mexico. The variety medio picta alba is so named for the stripe that goes down the center of the leaf. It is a sport or mutation that is commonly cultivated for the very attractive colors. These plants are quite hardy and certainly drought tolerant. They also get quite large, topping out around 4 to 5 feet in height. Older plants will send out a dramatically long, flower covered spike that towers upward of 10 feet or more after which the parent plant dies back and lots of pups/offshoots sprout along the sides of the main plant.
When I hacked back my plant some years ago (with an axe, something I do not recommend), the sap splattered everywhere and wherever it touched burned (very caustic) and, even after washing with soap and water, resulted in blood blisters. So, if you cut these back, do so with care.
That being said, for our more adventurous readers, our friends at Wikipedia claim that the flowering stem can be cut prior to flowering and the resulting sweet liquid gathered and fermented to create a drink called pulque. Pulque can be distilled to create Mezcal. This is not to be confused with Agave tequilana which is harvested/fermented/distilled for tequila. The Agave syrup is also harvested as a "natural healthful sugar substitute," again, as per Wikipedia. Now, if you ask me, after the blood blisters, I'm not going anywhere near any sap of any kind from my plants. Thus, they are safe just being drought-friendly, low maintenance, yard decor!