Plant Facts: Agave

While I bide my time, here are some fun facts about the plants in my book. (If you’re just now joining me, check out my other blog post, where I talk a little about my book.)

The agave is a succulent plant native to the hot, arid regions of the Southwest US, Mexico, and tropical parts of South America. It has several adaptations that allow it to not only survive, but thrive in these conditions:

  • Thick, tough, and waxy leaves, allow it to retain as much water as possible and prevent evaporation through transpiration. The leaves are also very sharp and have spines along the edges to ward off any animals that might try to eat its leaves….gotta guard that water!! (think, cactus)agave_americana_r01
  • A shallow root system comprised of rhizomes (continuously growing horizontal underground stem that puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals), which allows the plant to soak up as much water from rainfall, dew, and any other moisture. 


  • In addition to producing seeds, agave also produce little offshoots of new plants from their runners, called “pups”.
  • When an agave blooms, it’s stalk rises high above the plant, in order to be out of reach of anything that would attack it. The stalks can reach up to 30ft in height! After the bloom finishes, the agave dies.DCIM105GOPRO

Here are some more fun facts:

  • Agave are not cacti, nor related to cacti…or even aloe. They are hard to place in the phylogenetic tree, because the variations between species are huge, and some species could simply be variations of other wild species. It’s just confusing.
  • Agave spines are so sharp and tough, ancient peoples often used them for sewing needles.
  • The agave (and saguaro–a cactus) rely on bat pollination for survival. Two species–the lesser long-nosed bat and the Mexican long-tongued bat–migrate from Mexico into the Southern United States every spring. These two species are listed as endangered, and you can read more about them here.


    Lesser long-nosed bat Wikimedia Commons

  • Agave nectar, as we know it, is derived from the sap of the plant, not the flowers. (Although, there is nectar in the flowers as a treat for pollinators.) Once an agave has been growing for 7-14 years, its leaves are cut off, and the juice is extracted from the piña–or core–of the plant. It then goes on through processing for human consumption. (Now you know why it’s so expensive….)

  • Four major parts of the agave are edible: the flowers, the leaves, the stalks (or pups), and the sap–in Spanish aguamiel (“honey water”).

Stay tuned for fun facts about Texas bluebonnets!