Plant of the Month December 2016

Argave is a genus of monocotyledons native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the South Weston United States. The most familiar species is Argave Americana. It was introduced into Europe in the middle of the 16th century and is now widely cultivated as an ornamental, commonly known as ‘century plant’. This refers to the long time that the plant takes to flower. When each rosette eventually flowers the plant dies. Suckers frequently grow out from the stem and form new plants known as pups.

Argaves are succulents with a large rosette of thick fleshy leaves terminating in a sharp spine. In the variegated forms the leaves have a white or yellow marginal or central stripe and bear sharp spines at intervals along the margins.

The Argave has multiple uses. The flowers, leaves, stalks and sap are all edible.

During development of the flower, sap rushes to the base of the young flower stalk. Argave nectar or syrup is extracted and used as an alternative to sugar.

The extract contains fructans that are said to have health benefits, but these are destroyed by heat and the addition of enzymes. The syrup sold therefore has no health benefit and is as harmful as sugar.

By fermentation and distillation, a spirit mescal is made. The best known form is tequila. In 2001 the EU and the Mexican government stated that all tequila must be made from the Weber Blue Argave plant.

There seems no end to the uses of this plant. The native Mexicans used the leaves to make pens, nails, needles and string. Several species yield fibre to make sisal and hemp. The stalks when dried and cut can make didgeridoos and razor strops.

Now for the future; there is very interesting research about the Argave.

Unlike most plants it has a very different photosynthesis to conserve water by absorbing CO2 during the night. This is crassulacean acid metabolism CAM

Research is aimed to engineer the genetic traits of Argave and allied plants to enable other plants to become drought resistant. This might be a way of increasing food production in arid parts of the world.

For those interested in this see Wikipedia Scientific American.


Now for the present; Anthony Wildig has given Reveley a most splendid large Argave plant. It was not a friendly plant to transfer from Anthony’s precious flower pot to the tempting compost in its new pot prepared by Rory.

But a successful outcome: Anthony went home with his pot intact and two pups and we have a resplendent plant and also a further two pups.

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November 2016

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July 2016

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May 2016

April 2016

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February 2016

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