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Agave parryi (Engelm.)

This article is an improved version 2012 only on my website from the Dutch society Succulenta version 2010

Wim Alsemgeest  and Jos van Roosbroeck

The different forms of  Agave parryi  Engelmann, 1875

   Picture 1. Wim between the wet snowshowers on the site of A.parryi by San Lorenzo New .Mexico U.S.A. 2010.                

Part one.

Over the years, past and present,  there has been much confusion about the different forms and varieties of Agave parryi  Engelm.. In recent years many new forms of this plant have been  described, revising and adding to those described by Gentry in his book published in 1982. Consequently some of these newer names are not to be found in Gentry’s famous work.
In this article we hope to present a logical, up to date  revision of all of these forms.
The group of plants we are focussing on  in this article is the Parryanae group . The plants in this group are easy to grow and winter hardy in dry conditions.  They are very beautiful plants which can enhance any collection and can be relatively easy to grow outdoors,  especially if they can be kept dry in wet weather conditions.
Unfortunately, when grown in European conditions, where light intensity is less than habitat, they tend to be somewhat less showy.

Picture 2. The Normal most common form by San Lorenzo New.Mexico U.S.A..

The situation until now
Before we start the discussion about the different forms and varieties it would perhaps be useful to have an overview of the group.

  1. The first of the A. parryi group is:

            Agave parryi Engelm. (1875)

  1. A. parryi  has 4 variëties:

a.  A. parryi var. parryi
b. A. parryi  var. couesii  (Engelm. ex Trel.) Kearny & Peebles (1939)
c.  A. parryi  var. huachucensis (Baker) Little (1943)                         
d.  A. parryi  var. truncata  Gentry (1982)

3. Other forms of  A. parryi are:
a.  A. patonii  Trel. (1911 publ. 1912) (big plants with many leaves)
b. A. chihuahuana Trel. (1911 publ. 1912) (plants with more lower leaves)
c. A. parryi f. integrifolia Breitung (1963) ( this is the only toothless form.)

4. Closely  related to A. parryi are:
a. A. neomexicana Wooton & Standley (1913)
b. A. gracilipes Trel. (1911 publ. 1912)
c. A. havardiana Trel. (1911 publ. 1912)  (big plants)

Picture 3 An beautifull form on San Lorenzo N.M. U.S.A.2010

5. There is one  plant that we do not see as being closely related with A. parryi, unlike Gentry (1982) who places it in his group Parryanae. This is A. parrasana A.Berger (1906).

6. After the publication of Gentry’s book in 1982 two new plants were published:  A. gentry B.Ullrich (1990), and A. montana Villarreal (1996) . We do not feel these two plants are closely related with the Parryanae group. We see them more as being close to A. parrasana.
This means that we feel that these three plants should perhaps be placed in a new group..
This last group has a special feature, namely the protected bracts behind the flowers. This feature means that the plants have a mechanism to protect the flower stalk in wintertime.
The plants from the A. parryi group start flowering in the spring and continue in the summer. So pollination between the two groups is not possible.

7. Since 1982 there is another new agave described which in our opinion belongs to the Parryanae   group. This is Agave ovatifolia G.D.Starr & Vilarreal (2002).

8. Finely, A. guadalajarana Trel. (1920), which in Gentry’s opinion belongs in the  Parryanae group, but is currently the subject of much discussion. Some people consider it should be placed in with the Crenatae   group, but others, including ourselves, see a relationship with A. potatorum Zucc. (1833).

Picture 4 The extreemly rare form by San Lorenzo,with les leaves and the endspike growing recurved.

In Gentry’s book of 1982  we read that the  Agave parryi group has an enormous distribution, starting in the states of  Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the U.S.A and extending southwards  until the borders  of the states of  Durango and Zacatecas,  deep  in southern  Mexico. More recent information suggests the distribution is still more extensive, to Aguascalientes and Jalisco and beyond that to the east of Mexico, to the  state of  Guanaguato.  Bernd Ullrich discovered a location in the state of Queretaro. Close to  Colon in Queretaro state we found similar plants, but we doubt these forms belong to the A.parryi group and feel  they are more likely to be a transitional form  to A.applanata.
Because of this enormous distribution of the A.Parryi group, it is not surprising that the plants are variable. We are aware that very many names for this group of plants have been published in the past and we now know that many of theses different names actually belong to the same plant.

Picture 5. Bertus Spee by the smoller forms naer Silvercity N.M. 2010

With the benefit of up to date research and based on the eleven field trips we are have made, we doubt that some of the habitat sites we have found are really new sites but are in reality sites where in the past the native Indians have transferred plants, traveling either north to south or east to west.

In culture the plants from the A. parryi group are easy growing plants, not generally reaching huge sizes. Many forms, including those grown in Europe are winter hardy, especially when kept dry in the winter months. In habitat this applies especially to plants growing at high level, between 1500 and 2500 meters. We have a plant kept successfully outside in a pot for four years. During spells of wet weather the plant is covered with plastic and during freezing spells it is moved into the garage. After four years of this treatment it is now a beautiful specimen.

We shall now proceed with the oldest description of agave parryi and continue with the later described species. At the end of this article we shall summarize our findings..

Picture 6. The smoller form near Silver City N.M between the snow .

A. parryi
The first description was done by George Engelmann in 1875 in the Trans. Acad. Sci. St. Louis, no. 3: 311. In the Gardeners’ Chronicle from 1877.
The original habitat site is described in Arizona and New Mexico. The first plant was found by W.H. Emory in 1846, near a Coppermine by Silver City in southwest New Mexico.  We have found these plants in different places near Silver City, There are two forms; big ones, before the small city of San Lorenzo. ( See picture 1 - 4 ) and smaller ones near Silver City. ( picture 5 -6 )
At the San Lorenzo site we found also extremely rare forms with fewer leaves also the end spine was recurved (picture 4)
John Torrey had previously described this species in the Report of the U.S. and Mexico Boundary Survey, Vol. 2 (1859) as A. americana var. latifolia. C.C.Parry   He collected seeds in 1868  in the San Francisco Mts. Arizona, and Engelmann distributed  plants grown from these seeds under the name of  A. parryi .
Probably some of these seeds were obtained by J. v. Ellemeet in Zeeland, the Netherlands, because in his collection list of 1871 (Belg. Hort. 21:121 (1871)) we have found the name of A. parryi. Unfortunately the description of A. parryi was not based on the plants grown from these seeds, but from a plant from the collection of J.Y.Rothrock (no.74). These plants were collected in Rocky Canyon Graham Co., Arizona (1874; in Herb. MO) but even now we are not sure of the exact site.   
Isabel Mulford, published in the Rep. (Annual) Missouri Bot.Gard.  7, t. 36, 37, 38 en 39 , in 1896, a few pictures and paintings of plants coming from the San Francisco Mts.  Arizona.

Picture 7. Engelmann's type plant of A. parryi.

Engelmann’s  type plant figured on  Plate 37. ( picture 7) On this picture you see a small leaf. On a further page you can see a painting Plate 39, with the name of   A. applanata var. parryi , ( picture 8) and here you see that the leaf is much broader. from the same plant more typical A. parryi, in our opinion. That means that it is normal that the inner leaves of the plant are smaller than the outer leaves. 

Picture 8

The black and white picture (plate 38 in picture 9)   shows plants that are small and growing in an very dry area. The picture was taken in the San Francisco Mountains, Arizona. It is strange that the description of  A. applanata var. huachucensis  in this  book mentions ‘ var. huachuacensis with a compact globose form’.  The description of var. parryi states that the plant are much bigger. That means, that the descriptions contradict each other.

Picture 9

Jacobi is of a different opinion.  He considered the plant later described as A. parryi, as belonging to  A. crenata Jacobi, described in  1866. Nowadays A. crenata   is regarded as synonymous with   A. inaequidens.
William Trelease brought A. parryi into his group Applanatae in 1896.   To his parryi group he added A. patonii from Durango and A. chihuahuana  from south of central  Chihuana.
These latter two types were seen by Gentry as  synonymous with A. parryi but he did add that further research was required to clarify the situation.
Because the type plant from the Applanatae,  A.applanata, has dimorphic tepals in the flower structure, Gentry places it in the group  Ditepalae  and moves A. parryi  from the Trealease’s Applanatae group to  his Parryanae group.

The conclusion is now is that the most  typical A. parryi var parryi is to be found amongst the plants  growing near Silver City, close to San Lorenzo New Mexico.

We visited that site in 2010 and there   you can find plants with a grater or lesser number of leaves. (See pictures 1 to 4 ).

Continued: see part 2

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