The Various Forms of Agave parryi – Part Four.
Picture 1 The bowl form of A. parryi var.truncata
A closer look at: A. parryi var. truncata 1982
Agave parryi var. truncata was described by Gentry in 1982. At that time the habitat of this variety was the most southerly one of the A. parryi group, on the border of the states of Durango and Zacatecas in Mexico.
The name “truncata” refers to the fact that the leaves are short and broad.
Gentry collected specimens in 1951 in the Sierra Papanton, near the border of Durango and Zacatecas, along Route 45, 14 miles west of Sombrerete. There were three clones with different leaf forms (all within 15 meters of each other) and he gave them the numbers 10566, 10568 and 10570.
In the same year the clone number 10566 was planted in the Huntington Botanical Garden in Los Angeles, U.S.A. The plants are still there. This is a very special and beautiful form with the leaves growing in the shape of a bowl and the end spine being curved. It was for this reason that Gentry described this form as a new one. Hoping to find more plants and also flowering specimens, Gentry revisited that part of Mexico several times, unfortunately without success. In this article we call this special form of A. parryi truncata “bowl shaped” (Picture 1).
When plants are found in natural habitat the ‘average’ forms are ignored and it is the prominent and unusual forms that tend to be the ones described.
The confusion surrounding the name of this agave started after Gentry arrived at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in 1951 and gave the three clones of plants he had collected in Mexico the name A. flexispina (including the “bowl shaped” A. parryi var truncata). But the name of “flexispina” had been earlier used by Trelease in 1920, he having found this plant near Tepehuanes in the state Durango, This site is deep into southern Mexico but the site of the three different agaves with different leaves found by Gentry was between 150 and 160 km further south east.
We have a copy of the original description of A. flexispina. It is to be found in Paul C. Standley’s ‘ Trees and Shrubs of Mexico, Washington, Contributions from the U. S National Herbarium 1920-1926’. In this description by William Trelease we note that the end spine is 5 mm round and 30 mm long and the leaves tend to grow outwards and downwards Gentry in his book suggests that A. flexispina appears like a small form of A. shrevei or A. palmeri. This would imply that this plant has nothing to do with the parryanae group..
The plant that Trelease described as A. flexispina, was collected by Edward Palmer, a habitat plant collector who sent his collected specimens to various botanical gardens, mainly in the U.S.A. He had collected this plant in 1906 and deposited it in the Missouri Botanical Garden with the note; ‘Collected near Tepehuanes, Durango under number Palmer 330’.
The original description of A. flexispina does not fit that of the bowl shaped Agave parryi and it is unlikely that these two plants are one and the same. We can see the difference illustrated in the picture of botanical herbarium material in Breitung's Yearbook 1968, fig. nr.205. The illustration shows a dried leaf with an very long end spine.
Picture 2 A. flexispina
In the spring of 2007 Piet van der Meer,( a Dutchman with an extensive collection in Valencia Spain) , visited the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. On one of his pictures there is a label with the name A. flexispina (picture 2). This same named label appeared on other pictures he took and we came to the conclusion that the plants in the pictures were in fact the same as the illustration of the herbarium leaves in Breitung’s book, fig. nr. 205.
The plant on the picture nr. 204 in Breitung is our bowl shaped var. truncata form with the wrong name of A.flexispina,!
In 2006, Bertus Spee collected seeds from an agave 20 km south of Tepehuanes. The seedlings are the true A, flexispina. On Spee’s pictures you can see that A. parryi grows in the same area.
The end conclusion is that A. flexispina is a separate species, nothing the do with A. parryi..
Picture 3 A. parryi on the way to Topia
In 1969 Gentry changed the name of the bowl shaped A. parryi var, truncata from A. flexispina to A. patonii. The name patonii had been used earlier for a form of A. parryi described by Trelease in 1911. Trelease’s description was based on an plant collected by Paton (field numbers 158/11/3) in Chinacates (Durango), behind the railroad to Tepehuanes (Tepehuanes-Durango). Palmer had also been there five years earlier in 1906, near a place called Tobar (field number 228). This name is not to be found in any atlas. After much researching we have come to the conclusion that Tobar must be the Cordon Tovar, a rocky mountain in that vicinity. The Spanish language replaces the V with a B. Here is the main site where the type plant of A. patonii grows. This area is south ofTepehuanes Durango, in the same area where A. flexispina is to be found.
This is still not the site where the bowl shaped A. parryi var. truncata form was found near Sombrerete . Trelease only published pictures of the flowers, fruit and seeds. There was no picture of a complete leaf and what was shown was the end of a damaged leaf, so it is impossible to identify this as the bowl shaped A. parryi v. truncata.
Picture 4. on the same site three plants with outwardly curved leaves
So what is A. patonii? The answer can be found in Trelease’s work and also later in Alwin Berger’s. Both authors are of the opinion that A. patonii and A. huachucensis are closely related. Both plants have a globosely form and very broad leaves. Possibly the leaves of A. patonii are more compact and the teeth are big and triangular
The plant with the label “A. patonii” in the Huntington Botanical Gardens is not A. patonii but A. flexispina. Wim Alsemgeest, the first named author of this article, was at the site of the “real “A. patonii ,on Gordon Tovar, in 2011. There were many A. parryi forms between Santiago Papasquiaro and Topia, 11 kms after the the highway splits towards Topia . ( picture 3 ) There were forms with triangular teeth and also more compact leaves. But there was also a small site of three plants with outwardly curved leaves (picture 4) One of the most impressive features on that site was that all these plants had many old leaves, giving almost a columnar type of appearance. But ultimately, in reality, the end conclusion is that these plants belong to the broad and variable A. parry spec. parryi group. The names A. huachucensis and A. patonii should be considered as invalid.
Picture 5. This no longer the "real"A. patonii but an New bic specie!
In 2009 Wim Alsemgeest and his companions found what was considered previously the real A. patonii , approximately some 50 km below the city of Mezquital, near San Miquel Temoaya at an altitude of 2300 meters (Picture 5 and 6 ). (See also the Dutch magazine “Succulenta”, April 2010, number 2 ).This area is more than 200 km further south than the original site of A. patonii. After closer inspection in 2011 during a revisit to that area, the conclusion was reached that this is a completely new species.
Picture 6. The New Specie
The leaves are extremely broad and can reach 20cm and tend to grow downwards. This occurs also in younger plants and in cultivation. The whole plant can reach more than 1 meter across. The end spine is openly grooved almost to the tip and also a little bit reflexed, although only in the older leaves. The plants were growing at the top of the mountain, together with another huge agave species and Cacti as Echinocereus bonatzii and Mammillaria gummifera, this last one sited very deep in the ground
In 1980 Gentry renamed the bowl shaped plant (including clones 10568 and 10570) again, this time as A. parryi var. truncata. The three clones with these different leaves are now in the botanical Gardens of Muriete, California and the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.
In 1993 Bernd Ullrich and Jos van Roosbroeck visited the site on the border of Durango-Zacatecas on the Mexican Highway 45. About 10 km East from Vicente Guerrero, at an altitude of 2300 meters, they found a site with a big collection of agaves belongs to the parryanae group, field numbers B.U.114-05.12.93. Here there were plants with more rounded leaves, but also forms with leaves forming a bowl shape. However the typical curved end spine end was missing. The plants had lots of small offsets.
Bernd Ullrich was convinced he had found a new site of the A.parryi var. truncata. The site is 10 km east from the city of Vicente Guerrero but this is only 20 kilometers from the site of Gentry’s bowl shaped plant, 14 miles west of the city of Sombrerete Mexico. A picture of this bowl shaped agave planted in the Huntington Botanical Gardens can be found in Gentry’s book on page 544. This plant in the picture is not a natural habitat form because the climate in Los Angeles is much warmer than the high altitude climate near Sombrerete and also because the plants in the Botanical Gardens are more heavily watered than they would be in nature.
In our private collections we have the “normal” plants from Sombrerete and also beautiful compact forms. Now after 18 years we can see that the plants collected by Bernd Ullrich and Jos van Roosbroeck and also those collected by Gentry (clones 10568 en 10570, and see also Fig. no. 202 in Breitung’s book) have downward growing leaves and no longer have the cabbage – like growth habit. Possible the disappearance of the cabbage-like growth is due to environmental and cultivation factors. The leaves of the plants from clone 10566 (the bowl shaped form), which are in our collection and also in the Huntington Botanical Gardens, have remained unchanged in shape.
Picture 7. A. Parryi var. truncata in the Parque Nacional Sierra de Organos
Wim Alsemgeest , with his companions, revisited the site, 14 miles west of Sombrerete, where Gentry found his bowl shaped plant , in 2009 and 2011 . This site, with beautiful rock formations, is now a protected area (Parque Nacional Sierra de Organos). There they found beautiful blue grey forms of A. parryi var.truncata , these plants being also much smaller in size (Picture 7 and 8).
In 2007 Wim Alsemgeest had also visited a site Nord of Fresnillo where he found a very compact form of A. parryi var. truncata. These plants however did have not the beautiful blue/grey colour of the plants near Sombrerete.
Picture 9. Wim, Raimond and Marie Clare in 2009, by Milpillas Guanaguato, Mexico
Gentry mentioned in 1982 an Agave parryi var. truncata- form found very much more in a south easterly direction in Mexico, along the Mexican Highway 57 by San Luis de La Paz.
Martin Kristen from the famous “Globetrotters” makes mention of a clone of A. parryi in the state of Jalisco bij Ojuelos and Bernd Ullrich mentions a site in the state of Queretaro. These observations suggest that the distribution of A. parryi is much larger than previously thought and spreads much further towards the south eastern part of Mexico.
Wim Alsemgeest has visited these areas together with Bertus Spee and other companions. They have discovered beautiful compact forms in the region of San Luis de La Paz, near Milpillas in the state of Guanaguato (picture 9 ) and also in the state of Queretaro, near Los Trigos.(picture 10 and 13.
Picture 10. Site by LosTtrigos
At first it was thought that these were compact forms of A. parryi var. truncata but further exploration and the finding of bigger forms suggested that these forms belonged rather to A. applanta.
Plants from that area are now distributed under the name A. spatularia.
The Final Conclusion re A. parryi var. truncata
With the evidence presented above these are our final conclusions.
Clone 10566, the bowl shaped plant, is a beautiful compact form of A. parryi var. truncata with the leaves giving the bowl shape and having a short curved end spine. It is a single clone from one and the same plant and this same form is maintained in cultivation.
The plant on Fig. no. 202 in Breitung (1968), is not A. patonii but one of the clones 10568 or 10570; these plants are from the same group of plants found 10 km east of Vicente Guerrero in Durango. Mexico. Both have a straight end spine and downward growing leaves in mature plants.
The three clones above are seen by Gentry and Ullrich as the variety truncata.
The book “Agaves del Occidente de Mexico” from 2007, published by the University of Guadalajarana, endorses these conclusions.
We have discovered the following localities of A. parryi var. truncata:
1. The border of Durango – Zacatecas:
Sombrerete : the type locality Picture 7 & 8
Vincente Guerrero (Ullrich – van Roosbroeck)
Cieneguillas: north of Vicente Guerrero
2. In the state of Zacatecas:
north of Fresnillo .Picture
Sierra Chapultepec, south east of Sombrerete
3. In the state of Aguascaliente:
San Jose de Gracia
4 In the state of Jalisco: Ojuelos (Martin Kristen)
The following localities relate to A. applanata and not to the parryanae group. Confusion may arise because the plants in their juvenile form are similar to A. parryi var truncata
1. In the state of Guanaguato:
KM 110 Highway 57. (Gentry)
Near Milpillas (Bertus Spee & Co) picture 9 and San Luis de La Paz (Bertus Spee and Wim Alsemgeest) Picture 11 and 12 (Pict.Michael Greulich)
Picture 13. Agave look a like A. parryi var. truncata by Los Trigos = A. applanata
2. In the state of Queretaro
Near Los Trigos Picture 10 and 13, (Bertus Spee and Wim Alsemgeest) 2010
At present the plants from Guanaguato are being distributed under the name of A. spatularia; we think that this name is an old one, previously used by a Mexican seed distributor.
Agave parryi var.truncata is a valid entity and belongs to the most beautiful group of A. parryi.all
To by continuded later
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