Artikel in de Nederlandse taal

The Transformation of an  Agave….
Wim Alsemgeest, Jos van Roosbroeck and Theo van ’t Walderveen

Agave applanata (Sierra Zamorano (2100m) Queretaro).Pict.Bernd Ullrich

Plant lists, seed lists and nurseries contain agaves for sale with many different names, but often  the true name of the plant is not on that list or label.
One can find names like A.mereco, A. hanbury, A. twello, A. dwergvorm, A. parrasana compacta, A. patonii compacta A. flatfoot, A. verschaffeltii picola and even A. patinii, this last name being even spelt incorrectly!

If you want to build up some knowledge about certain plants, you usually start by collecting everything that catches your eye.
So you buy a lot of plants, with a lot of different names. After a few years, having gained a bit of experience,  you start to find that  many plants appear to be similar to others although the names do not match.
Also you discover  that some agave species have completely  different juvenile and adult forms. A good example of this variation can be found in   agave applanata.(Trel. ex Jacobi)*
If you see a mature agave applanata with an enormous terminal spine, it is difficult to believe that the young form of the same plant is so different.
The short compact leaves  of  the young plants suggest that they belong to the parryanae  group.

Agave applanata (Sierra Zamorano(2100m) Queretaro).Pct.Bernd Ullrich

Successful growing of  this  “different species “  provides proof that young plants  do indeed not look  like the  mature ones.
In cultivation a young agave applanata makes a  very attractive plant. During the first 5 years the plant grows very well but not too fast and offsets well, so you get a lot of small plants in a pot. Its important to get a few young plants in your collection to build up numbers because once the plant matures it ceases the production of offsets.
After a few more years you see a change in the centre of the plant, and the terminal spine grows longer. Now starts the process of  transformation to a completely different form.
Once it becomes apparent that this is an agave applanata  the list of names quoted at the  beginning of this article can be removed.
Adult plants may vary slightly in appearance, for example there are a number of shades of blue as far as leaf colour is concerned.

Multi-coloured specie of Agave applanata in the collection of Jos de Vleeshouwer Belgium.

In cultivation often after about  15 years the  plants reach such a size that repotting is required into a larger pot.Larger  plants can be put outside in the summertime into the garden or onto a patio, so that valuable space is created in the greenhouse. Like most other agaves, agave applanata dislikes  too much water ands especially hates having waterlogged roots. If the  plants spend long periods of time in the summer in wet soil and with a relatively low temperature, the result is an excessive loss of leaves the following winter. It then takes a complete new season before leaf growth is restored. Generally agave applanta does much better being kept in the greenhouse.


An juvenile A.applanata

The leaves of young plants of A. applanata sometimes grow at awkward angles and make repotting necessary. Because of the way the leaves grow repotting can often only be done successfully after removal of older leaves.
Applanata (applanátus,-a,-um), means  flat, This certainly applies to the appearance of young plants, but does not apply to adult forms.
In his historical work “DIE AGAVEN ” from 1915 Alwin Berger does mention the difference between young and adult plants of agave applanata, but unfortunately we were unable to find any relevant pictures to illustrate this.
 Howard Scott Gentry, the well known agave specialist, makes a mention in his book  “AGAVES OF CONTINENTAL OF NORTH AMERICA”, of the difference between young and adult plants. He quotes another well known agave expert named William Trelease who, in 1911,  wrote of agave applanata :  ‘’ Long cultivated, but of doubtful origin, and greatly misunderstood because of the difference between juvenile, moderately developed  and mature plants”   So almost a hundred years ago there was already confusion about this species.

Multi-coloured species of Agave applanata in the collection of Jos van Roosbroeck Belgium

Agave applanata  is placed in the Subgenus Agave - Group Ditepalae.  The original type plant was never described and is unknown. Trelease writes of a plant  “Limon” above Jalapa Veracruz, on 2300 meter altitude and higher, also the high altitudes of Veracruz and  Puebla. This may be taken as the neotype.
Nowadays we are aware of many more sites where agave applanata is to be found. In the past many plants were removed from their original sites  by the local people, who cultivated them and found many uses for them, especially as the fibres from the leaves were very strong.
An old name for agave applanata is  “Maguey de la casa”.
The plant is also to be found in the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, Queretaro and Oaxaca , often along  old commercial routes. Another common location is cemetaries  and this suggests a possible ceremonial and/or religious role for the plant.


Agave applanata kopie from: Baker F.G. 1879 Succinto della monografia delle Agave

In recent years there is also a fantastic multi-coloured species to be found   in collections, accompanied by a lot of different and often incorrect names. For  example in the  C.& S.J. (USA) no.2 van 2004 you can find this particular form incorrectly labelled as  agave .parryi var. couesii. A nice feature of this form is the interesting development as it grows and the quite spectacular transformation from juvenile to adult form. It offsets readily but unfortunately does not grow from seed.  A lot of patience is required to cultivate this form.

Much of the literature quotes the authors as  ‘Koch ex Jacobi’.  In the opinion of  Dr.Kanchi Gandhi from The International Plant Names Index  this agave should be ascribed to  “Lem.ex Jacobi”.  Jacobi ascribed the name applanata to Lem and latissima to Koch. It is possible that  this may have misled some botanists to cite Koch for applanata.

An full Adult specie of A.applanata in the collection of Frans van de Laar, The Netherlands

Agavensystematik für das IOS – Lexikon (1. vorschlag) 3/1991
Baker, Dott F.G. (1879) succinto della monografia delle Agave.
Benadum, Duke (2004) Superb Succulents A.parryi var. couesii C&S.J. (USA) No.2 Vol.76 pag.91.
Berger, A. (1915) Die Agaven – Beiträge zu einer Monographie – Gustav Fischer Verlag Stuttgart, New York, Ergänzter Nachdruck der 1. Auflage,1988 Gustav Fischer Verlag Stuttgart, New York.
Breitung, August J. 1968 The Agaves – The Cactus and Succulent journal Yearbook edited by Charles Glass and Robert A. Forster. Reseda California: Abby Garden Press.
Heller, Thomas (2003) Agaven – Natur und Tier – Verlag GmbH Münster.
Irish, M.&G.Irish (2000): Agaves and related Plants – A Gardeners Guide – Timber Press Portland Oregon.
Jacobi G.A. von .(1864) versuch zu einer systematische ordnung der Agaven.Hamburg. Garten. Blumenzeitung 20 (?)  550-551.
I.P.N.I. The International Plant Names Index.Internet:
Jacobsen, H.(1955) Handbüch der Sukkulenten plantzen. – Gustav Fisher Verlag, Jena.
Gentry, Howard Scott (1972) The Agave Family in Sonora. Agriculture Handbook No. 399. U.S. Covernment printing Washington, D.C.
Gentry, Howard Scott (1982) Agaves of continental North America. – The University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Sato, Tony (1999) Nishiki Succulent handbook Tsutomu Sato. Japan cactus planning co. Press.
Succulenta. (1983) Wat betekent die naam. Botanisch Latijn toegankelijk gemaakt.
Thiede, J. (2001) Agavaceae – In Eggli, U. : Sukkulentenlexicon Band 1, Einkeimblättrige Plantzen. (Monocoltyledonen). _ Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart.
Walker, Colin. (2000) Agave attenuata and some new cultivars. B.C.S.J. No. 2 Vol. 18. pag. 95 – 98.

Thanks to Jan Kolendo, for his help of the translation from Dutch to English

Agave applanata Mineral de Pozos Guanajuato

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