Fine Art

Agave fourcroydes

Agave fourcroydes, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Monocots
Ordo: Asparagales

Familia: Asparagaceae
Subfamilia: Agavoideae
Genus: Agave
Species: Agave fourcroydes

Agave fourcroydes Lem., 1864

Agave rigida var. elongata Baker, Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1892: 23 (1893).
Agave sullivanii Trel., Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 23: 119 (1920).
Agave fourcroydes var. espiculata L.H.Dewey, J. Washington Acad. Sci. 19: 416 (1929).

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Northern America
Regional: Mexico
S. Mexico to Guatemala

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition

Lemaire, C., 1864. L'Illustration Horticole. Ghent & Brussels 11:65.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2019. Agave fourcroydes in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2019 Jan. 03. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2019. Agave fourcroydes. Published online. Accessed: Jan. 03 2019.
The Plant List 2013. Agave fourcroydes in The Plant List Version 1.1. Published online. Accessed: 2019 Jan. 03. 2019. Agave fourcroydes. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 03 Jan. 2019.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agave fourcroydes in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 08-Apr-12.SA.

Vernacular names
Türkçe: Heneken

Henequen (Agave fourcroydes Lem.) is an agave, a plant species native to southern Mexico and Guatemala. It is reportedly naturalized in Italy, the Canary Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Hispaniola, the Cayman Islands and the Lesser Antilles.


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The leaves of Agave fourcroydes yield a fiber also called henequen, which is suitable for rope and twine but not of as high a quality as sisal. It is the major plantation fiber agave of eastern Mexico, being grown extensively in Yucatán, Veracruz, and Tamaulipas. It is also used to make licor del henequén, a traditional Mexican alcoholic drink.

The plant appears as a rosette of sword-shaped leaves 1.2 to 1.8 meters long, growing out of a thick stem that may reach 1.7 meters (5 ft). The leaves have regularly spaced teeth 3–6 mm long and a terminal spine 2–3 cm long.

Like sisal, A. fourcroydes is a sterile hybrid; the ovaries never produce seeds. The plant does produce bulbils that may be planted, but commercial growers prefer to use the frequent suckers, which develop more quickly.

The first person of Spanish descent to document the plant and its usefulness for ropes and other naval utensils was José María Lanz, a Mexican-born engineer in service of the Spanish Navy, who studied henequen in Yucatán in 1783.
In mezcal

Henequen, like other species of agave, is used in the production of mezcal.

See also

International Year of Natural Fibres 2009


José María Lanz, Observaciones que el alférez de fragata D. José Maria de Lanz, forma sobre la planta nombrada henequen, sus utilidades, y lo conveniente de su fomento, en cumplimiento de la comision con que lo despacho á Yucatan para la inspeccion de la járcia de esta especie, el Sr. D. Francisco de Borja, jefe de escuadra de la real armada, y comandante de las fuerzas maritimas del departamento de la Habana, October 15, 1783; later reprinted in Registro Yucateco, volume 3 (1846), pages 81–95 (digitized by Google)
Howard Scott Gentry, Agaves of Continental North America (University of Arizona Press, 1982) pp. 573–576

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