agave



agave defined in 1939 year

agave - Agave (american aloe);
agave - Plant so called from a superficial likeness to the true aloe, to which it is not related, the agave being an amaryllid, while the aloe is a lily. There are many species of agave, all natives of S. America, Mexico, and the southern United States; but the best known is the noble Agave americana, which is fabled to flower once in a hundred years. The stem is very short and supports a rosette consisting of from 30 to 50 leaves from 4 ft. to 6 ft. in length and more than ½ ft. broad. They are very thick and fleshy, the upper surface is concave, and the edges are armed at short intervals with hard spines. A single leaf weighs about 12 lb., and lives about six years.

The plant matures slowly in 10, 20, 50, or even 70 years, and then very rapidly develops a flowering stem from 15 ft. to 40 ft., its upper portion with horizontal branches, which bear several thousands of yellow-green flowers. The flowering exhausts the plant, and it soon dies. The roots and leaves contain valuable fibres (pita thread) of a tough character, from which twine, cordage, and paper are made. The sap from the undeveloped flowering stem when fermented becomes pulque, the national drink of the Mexicans, and mescal, a kind of brandy of highly intoxicating quality.

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