I’m treating these two very different but equally beautifulagaves in the same article because they grow together inthe same habitat
and have the same culture.They are endemic to the Sierra del Viejo, a limestonemountain southwest of Caborca, Sonora. This range is inthe Central Gulf Coast division of the Sonoran Desert.The climate is hot and very arid. All of these traits makethese agaves well adapted to the climate and oftencaliche-laden soils of southern Arizona.The similarities stop there.
is in thesubgenus Agave, the one with paniculate inorescences.
is in the subgenus Littaea andhas spicate inorescences. The former species formsoffsets, while the latter is always a solitary rosette. Theleaves of
are broad, gracefully recurved andchanneled, and have beautiful gray banding and verytoothy leaf margins that leave bud imprints on adjacentleaves.
has many narrow, straight, toothlessleaves; they’re dark green with a smooth white margin.Both species grow slowly, so they will grace your gardenfor many years before they ower and die.
owers are bat-pollinated and are a dull brownish white. Although the owering rosette dies, offsets will keep theclone going. But the nal act of
solitaryrosette is a spectacle. The spike shoots up to about15 feet tall, densely packed with owers of a strangebrownish-red hue
. My plants took 20 yearsfrom seed to mature, and that was with regular watering.These agaves are only sporadically available, especially
because it can be propagated only from seed.Each one has look-alike species that can be substitured.Some clones of the variable
It’s a tropical species, but ittolerates our frost and nearly full desert sun.
looks almost exactly like
Most clones are non-offsetting; its inorescence is a moreordinary yellow.
Growing in the Desert Series: Agave zebra and Agave pelona
By Mark DimmittPhotos by Mark Dimmitt unless noted
in the Sierra del Viejo.
in habitat. Noticethe strong banding and bud imprinting.
The strikinginorescence of
in habitat near Magdalena,Sonora. Photo by T.R. Van Devender
a particularly broad-leafed, strongly banded clone.
typically grow onthe high ridges of the Sierra del Viejo.