Agave

(Greek, agauas, admirable). Amarylliddcew. Important decorative and economic plants from hot American deserts, the most familiar of which is A. A mericana, the Amsmcarr Cssruar PLANT. St. short or wanting: lvs. mostly in a close rosette, mostly stifl and more or less fleshy, persisting from year to year, the margins mostly armed with teeth and the apex tipped with a more or less pungent spine: fls. in spikes or panicles ; perianth 6-parted, more or less funnel-shaped; stamens 6, mostly long-exserted; style 1 ; ovary infe rior, 3-celled; seeds numerous, flat, thin, triangular, black. Some species flower but once and die, others oc casionally, while others flower from year to year. The number of species is about 150, although more than 325 have been described. One of the largest collections is at Kew, where there are 85 named species. The largest collections in the United States are at the Botanical Garden of Washington and the Missouri Botanical Gar den, where there are about 75 species each. Amateurs often cultivate a greater number of species than are de scribed in this account. Agaves are essentially fanciers' or amateurs’ plants. This noble group of plants has never received the attention it deserves, and yet no ge nus of plants in America furnishes so many suitable decorative plants. Sir Joseph Hooker places it next to the palm and aloe, but the former is a great family of 1,100 species. While in the United States we think of the Agaves only as decorative plants, yet in Mexico, their native home, they are the most useful of plants. Many species furnish flber, others soap, while still others produce the two great Mexican drinks, Pulque and Mescal. Pulque, which is a fermented drink, is ob tained from several species, especially A. atrm-irens. Me-scnl, which is is distilled drink, is usually not ob tained from the same species as Pulque, although there is a general belief to the contrary. The species from which is made most of the Mescal used in Mexico is unknown. The species vary so much in size and form that they can be used in a great many ways. Some of the smaller species are suitable for the house, and even some of the larger species are so used. The larger spe cies are well adapted for vases in large gardens and grounds, along walks, terraces, etc. These plants, com ing, as they do, from arid or even desert regions, where AGAVE 33 they have a hard struggle to exist, can be grown with little or no care, but they respond very quickly to good treatment. The species are propagated in various ways; some produce suckers at the base or even underground shoots ; others give oi! buds from the stem, which fall off and take root, or may be detached and planted; while not a few produce bulblets in the flower-clusters, and sometimes in great abundance, while all may be produced from seed. But as most of the species flower only after a long interval, and many have not yet been known to flower in cultivation, this latter means of propagation can not be relied upon. In cultivation, fruit is set very sparingly or not at all without artificial pollination, although this can be accomplished with very little trouble. Monograph by J. G. Baker, Ama Yyllidewy 1533- J. N. Ross. None of the Agave: are at all diflicult to grow. The soil should be principally loam and sand, and if any vege table soil be given it should be in small quantities. Good drainage and firm potting are necessary. To grow small plants of the large-leaved kinds into good-sized specimens quickly, they should be plunged out in a sunny spot in spring, taking care that the pots are large enough so that they will not require repotting in the fall. Nearly all of the large-growing kinds are easily increased from suck ers, which, when the plants are grown in a pot-bound con dition, are produced very readily. They should only be taken 08 from the parent plant when furnished with suf ficicnt roots to give them a start. Some kinds are raised only from seeds,which, when freshly gathered, germinate in B few “'°ek5- Cult. by G. W. Omvaa. The classification of the Agaves is a very difficult one. This is partially owing to the great number of species, to the difliculty of preserving study material, and to the infrequency of flowering in many spe cies. In fact, many species have never been known to flower. The most usable characters for classification are to be found in the leaves, and, although such an arrangement is more or less artificial, it is certainly the most satisfactory) in naming a collection. From a otanical point of view, however, the inflorescence shows the true relationship of the species. In this way the genus is usually divided into three groups or subgenera. These are : First, the Euagare, having1 a paniculate in florescence, wit candelabra - like branches. Second, the Littaza, hav ing a dense spike of flowers. (The section Liltrza has been considered by some a good genus, but it seems to connect with the first section through certain species.) The third section, Manfreda, is very different from the above, and is considered by the writer as a distinct generic type, although treated here in accordance with general usage. Manfredas are all herbaceous, appearing each year from a bulbous base, the lvs. are soft and weak, dying down annually, while the inflores cence is a slender open spike, with solitary fls. from the axils of bracts.