Agave lechuguilla

Agave lechuguilla, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Divisio: Magnoliophyta
Classis: Liliopsida
Subclassis: Liliidae
Ordo: Asparagales
Familia: Agavaceae
Genus: Agave
Species: Agave lechuguilla

Name

Agave lechuguilla, Torr.

Vernacular names

References

USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database, 6 March 2006 (http://plants.usda.gov). Data compiled from various sources by Mark W. Skinner. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Agave lechuguilla (Lechuguilla) is an agave found only in the Chihuahuan, Coahuilan and Sonoran Deserts, almost always on limestone. For this reason it is an indicator species for the Chihuahuan Desert. The plant flowers once in its life, then it dies. The flowers are a source of nutrients for insects, bats, and some birds.

The leaves are long, tough and rigid, with very sharp, hard points which can easily penetrate clothing and even leather, giving the colloquial name Shin-daggers. Native Americans living there have used fibers from the leaves (commonly called ixtle, but also a hard fiber known by the trade name Tampico fiber) to make ropes and mats.

The water stored in this plant, rich in salts and minerals, is sold in Mexico as a sport drink, though the plant itself is poisonous to cattle, goats, and sheep, but peccary (or "javelina") pull the leaves out of the plant and chew the bulb at the end.

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