Hellen and I came home with a start of this agave a bunch of years ago when we visited the McNay Museum in San Antonio to enjoy a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit. I was just getting serious about my cactus collection and was anxious to add new specimens and at the time I didn’t have this one. Had not a clue what it was, but figured I needed one.
Time passed; I gave a start to Sheila; It grew, produced babies, bloomed and died. Mine spread, but no bloom. I had to dig up lots of the pups to keep from having a bed as big as the one in San Antonio. And I didn’t want a bed of just this plant.
More time passed. I kept it to just one nice plant. The other day I walked by and much to my surprise, there it was-the bloom stem. This was on May 9th.
By June 17th buds were beginning to open.
By June 22, more buds up and down the mast, as the stem or trunk is called, are opening.
And by June 29, the little flowers are brown, and the plant is turning yellow because it will die soon, as agaves are monocarpic, meaning they flower once and then die.
All this time I had not been sure what this plant was and wasn’t sure if it was an agave or yucca. And then on a recent trip to CactusTown, there it was. Cactus Mike had them labeled and for sale: agave lechuguilla. So now I know.
Native to Chihuahua, Mexico, the name means little lettuce. The water in the stalks is used as a sport drink in Mexico because it is high in minerals and salts. The plant is food for javelinas but is toxic to sheep and cattle. If you add one of these to your collection, just be aware that it is going to spread long before it blooms. they come up everywhere and continue to sprout from tiny bits of root that you may miss when digging up the pups. So stay on top of it and pull up those babies, or you will have a whole cactus bed full of them.