Fine Art

Agave lechuguilla

Agave lechuguilla, 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 lechuguilla

Agave lechuguilla Torr., 1858

Agave poselgeri Salm-Dyck, Bonplandia (Hannover) 7: 92 (1859).
Agave heteracantha Jacobi, Hamburger Garten- Blumenzeitung 22: 62 (1866), nom. illeg.
Agave multilineata Baker, Handb. Amaryll.: 168 (1888).
Agave lophantha var. tamaulipasana A.Berger, Agaven: 94 (1915).
Agave univittata var. tamaulipasana (A.Berger) Jacobson, Natl. Cact. Succ. J. 28: 4 (1973).

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Northern America
Regional: Mexico
Mexico Central; Mexico Northeast
Regional: Southern USA
New Mexico; Texas

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

Torrey, J. in W. H. Emory, 1858. Rep. U.S. Mex. Bound. 2(1):213. "lecheguilla"


Govaerts, R. et al. 2019. Agave lechuguilla in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2019 Jan. 04. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2019. Agave lechuguilla. Published online. Accessed: Jan. 04 2019.
The Plant List 2013. Agave lechuguilla in The Plant List Version 1.1. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2019 Jan. 04. 2019. Agave lechuguilla. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2019 Jan. 04.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agave lechuguilla in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 08-Apr-12.

Vernacular names

Agave lechuguilla (common name in Chihuahua: lechuguilla, meaning "small lettuce") is an Agave species found only in the Chihuahuan Desert, where it is an indicator species.[4] It typically grows on calcareous soils.[5] The plant flowers once in its life and then 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 that can easily penetrate clothing and even leather, giving the colloquial name "shin-daggers". Mexican people have used fibers from the leaves (commonly called ixtle)."

The water stored in the flowering stalks of this plant, rich in salts and minerals, is sold in Mexico as a sport drink. The plant makes up a large part of the diet of the collared peccary (SW USA: javelina) in some areas.[6] It is toxic to cattle and sheep, however.[7] Roots of the plants were used as soap by Native Americans.[8]

The plant reproduces most often through underground offshoots, creating large colonies.[8] It also can flower at any time after the plant has reached three to 21 years of age, producing a leafless stalk that can reach 3.7 metres (12 feet) in height.[8] The flower clusters are located at the top and are funnel-shaped in purples, reds, and yellows.[8] The plant dies after flowering.[8]

Charles Wright first collected the plant in 1849 and it was described by John Torrey in 1859.[8]


"Agave lechuguilla". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019. 2019. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
"Agave lechuguilla". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2011-05-02.
Kew World Checklist
West, Steve (2000). Northern Chihuahuan Desert Wildflowers. Globe Pequot. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-56044-980-5.
Turner, Matt (2009). Remarkable Plants of Texas: Uncommon Accounts of Our Common Natives. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 109–113. ISBN 978-0-292-71851-7.
Corn, J. L. and R. J. Warren. (1985). Seasonal food habits of the collared peccary in South Texas. Journal of Mammalogy. 66:1 155-59.
Lechuguilla. Archived April 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Toxic plants of Texas. Texas A&M.

Morey, Roy (2008). Little Big Bend : Common, Uncommon, and Rare Plants of Big Bend National Park. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780896726130. OCLC 80359503.

Further reading

Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). "Agave lechuguilla". Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). New York and Oxford – via, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Thacker, H. 2013. Agave lechuguilla. "Least Concern ver 3.1", The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3.

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