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agave plant

Agave species


These plants have large clusters of thick, fleshy leaves borne close to the ground and surrounding a central stalk. The plants flower only once, then die. They produce a massive flower stalk. Agave are commonly known as the "century plant." There are about 200 species of agave in the world. They are closely related to Aloe, and have a similar appearance.

Habitat and Distribution

Agaves prefer dry, open areas. Most agaves are found in Mexico, but they are also found throughout Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of the western deserts of the United States.

Edible Parts

Its flowers, flower buds, and tender bases of new leaves are all edible. Boil or roast them before eating. The flower stalks can be roasted and become sweet and chewy. The juice the contain is referred to as "aguamiel," which translates as "honey water."


The juice of some species causes dermatitis in some individuals.

Other Uses

You can cut the huge flower stalk and collect the juice for drinking. Some species have very fibrous leaves. If you pound the leaves you can remove the fibers for weaving and making ropes. Most species have thick, sharp needles at the tips of the leaves. These have been used for sewing. The sap of some species contains a chemical that makes it suitable for use as a soap.

Steve's notes:

These are also called century plants, and may be protected in some areas. Don't kill the plant to get the juice for drinking, except in the direst emergency (It is a difficult, time-consuming process anyhow).

If you cut half-way though one of the leaves, near the tip, you can usually bend it and peel the fibers off with the point attached. A needle with thread attached! You can use this for quick repairs on clothing or backpacks. Agaves are very useful for their fiber, and you don't need to kill them to get it. Just use a leaf or two.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Agave