Agave utahensis

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This page last updated on 04/08/2018
(Fig. 01)

Picture NotesThe pictures shown here (Figs. 01 & 02) were taken while hiking the Calico Tank hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Read about this hike here ... Calico Tank Trail (RRNCA).

Description: Also known as the Century Plant, the agave family includes over 200 species. Agave utahensis is a species of agave known by the common name Utah agave. Varieties of the species include the Nevada agave and Kaibab agave. Agave utahensis is one of the more common agaves of the Southwest, ranging from the low elevation Mojave Desert of California and Nevada eastwards to the North Rim of Grand Canyon at elevations between 3000 and 7500 feet. A relatively small agave, the plant forms a dense but compact globular rosette of blue-green sharp-spiked dagger-shaped leaves, usually solitary but sometimes sprouting from the root system into small clusters, but it may produce a bloom stalk that rises 15 feet above the rosette. Leaves have a maximum length of 20 inches and range between half and nearly 2 inches in width. The upper surfaces are fairly flat, becoming slightly concave towards the tip, while the undersides are gently convex. The greyish teeth merge with the toughened edge towards the tip, leading to the stout apical spine. The raceme inflorescence is very tall, reaching a maximum of 4 m (12 ft). It is generally yellow or yellow-green with bulbous yellow flowers. The fruits are capsules 1 to 3 centimeters long and containing black seed. It can tolerate not only the heat of a desert summer, but also the below zero Fahrenheit temperatures of a southern Great Basin winter.

The agave was an important food source of the Indians in the Southwestern U.S. The pit was covered over with soil and and the crowns were roasted for two days. As part of a complex ritual, the center of the crowns would be eaten and some stored for later use.  The native Americans also ate the cooked agave leaves like artichokes or sometimes they boiled the leaves down to make a syrup. The plant was often used for food and fiber by local Native American peoples such as the Havasupai. Among the Navajo, the plant is used to make blankets.
(Fig. 02)