November 4, 2015
Octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)
What an amazing plant! All agaves are amazing, but I think the way this plant reproduces is special. Agaves are sometimes called "century plants" because they seem to go on living for years and years. They don't live for a century though, it is more like ten years. The plant then sends up a flowering stalk, spending all its energy in doing so, and then it dies. Before dying the plant usually sends up new plants (pups) from the roots and so life goes on.
My friend Mary showed up the other day carrying an egg carton with six little agave sprouts that she had collected and started when an octopus agave had bloomed. Only the agave did not send up little plants from the roots, but formed on the stalk. In Mexico, where this plant grows in the wild, she said, the plant's leaves are cut, dried, and the fibers beaten into a brush with built-in soap thanks to a high concentration of sapogenin in the leaves.
I have potted up the little plants and will keep them inside until Spring because I think they will die with a frost, the roots being so small. I will find a spot in the yard for them when the weather warms up. We live in the same environment where this agave grows naturally so I have hopes it will do well in our yard. I wonder if its soap carrying qualities will discourage animals from eating the leaves?
Yesterday we went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and there was an octopus agave that had recently bloomed and its stalk was with loaded with little sprouts! What an amazing sight. Mom does have her ways.