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Agave palmeri - Engelm.

Common Name Palmer’s agave
Family Asparagaceae
USDA hardiness 7-11
Known Hazards Many Agave species have strong, sharp spines on the leaves and leaf tips. In theory at least, the flowers, nectar, immature flowering stem and the centre of the rosette of all Agave species is edible and, with proper preparation, can provide a sweet, tasty foodstuff. Some species, however, contain relatively high levels of saponins (which makes them taste bitter) and some other compounds which can cause bellyache, and so these would only be eaten in times of desperation. In addition, many people may find these foods to be strongly laxative the first few times they eat them[1846 ].
Habitats Sandy to rocky or gravelly slopes and in grassland, oak savannah, and pine dominated communities, also along disturbed habitats near highways; at elevations from 900 - 2,200 metres[338 ].
Range Southwestern N. America - SE. Arizona to SW. New Mexico to northern Mexico (Sonora, NW. Chihuahua).
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Agave palmeri Palmer’s agave

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Agave palmeri Palmer’s agave
Brewbooks from near Seattle, USA Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0


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Agave palmeri is an evergreen, stemless, succulent plant forming a rather open rosette of leaves that can be 50 - 120cm tall and 100 - 120cm in diameter. The leaves on mature plants can each be 35 - 75cm long and 7 - 10cm wide near the base. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 3 - 6.5 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die. However, the plant occasionally produces a number of young plants around its base that will develop as new plants[1842 , 1844 ]. The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and to make the distilled drink 'mezcal', and also as a source of fibre. Agave palmeri is widely distributed, and it is often abundant where found. Although it faces multiple threats, declines are localised within the larger range. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2019)[338 ]. The Agave genus, belonging to the Asparagus family (Asparagaceae), includes various species such as Goldenflower Agave, Desert Agave, Palmer’s Agave, Parry’s Agave, and Utah Agave. These plants are historically significant as food sources for Native Americans, who consumed their caudices (crowns, heads, or hearts), flower stalks, flower buds, flowers, and seeds. While these parts are edible, extensive preparation is needed to reduce saponins and irritating soap-like compounds in all of the agave—traditional preparation involves baking the parts in fire pits, enhancing their flavour and texture. The crowns and flower stalks are the most valuable, often baked and consumed immediately or stored for later use. Agave syrup can also be made from the baked crowns. Agave flowers and seeds are generally not suitable for consumption due to their acrid taste and the presence of potentially harmful compounds. Dislodging agave plants and removing their leaves is labour-intensive, requiring tools like a sharp axe. Agave blooms in late spring to early summer, and its flowers, while not ideal for human consumption, play an essential role in the ecosystem, supporting wildlife. Some agave species are protected, and their collection may be restricted to ensure conservation [2-3].

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Agave palmeri is an evergreen Perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 8. The flowers are pollinated by Bats, Insects, Hummingbirds.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


None Known

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

The plant is used to produce mezcal spirit and bacanora[338 , 1842 ]]. Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage that potentially can be made from almost any species of Agave, though only around fifty are used regularly and seven species are especially favoured. Mature plants are harvested from the wild, their leaves and roots are removed and the remaining 'hearts' are baked (often in an earth oven), then mashed and the resulting liquid allowed to ferment for a few days before being distilled to produce mezcal. The plant is collected both for eating and for making mescal[1842 ]. Various parts of the plant were traditionally eaten. Tthe heart of the rosette, after the roots and leaves have been removed, can be slow-baked for several hours This will convert much of the carbohydrates into sugars and the heart can then be eaten, converted into a distilled liquor (mezcal), dried for later use etc. The best species have a very sweet, syrup-like flavour[1846 ]. The slow-baked leaf bases are also edible, but very fibrous. They are chewed for their sweet flavour, and the fibrous remains spat out[1846 ]. In addition, the young flowering stem can also be cooked and eaten - it has a sweet flavour, though it can be rather fibrous. The flower buds and the flowers can also be cooked and eaten. Many Agave species produce copious nectar when flowering, and this is sometimes collected and drunk. Although sweet, it can be rather nauseous, but it improves if it is boiled and the froth skimmed off[1846 ]. A warning to newcomers to these foods, however - many people find Agaves to be strongly laxative the first few times they eat them[1846 ]. The young, tender, emerging flowering shoots are still eaten in Mexico[1842 ] This species is among the sweeter-tasting members of the genus, with little or no bitter sapogenins reported in assays. The leaves of one sample were found to contain 0.5% hecogenin, whilst several other samples were negative[1842 ]. Parts Used: Caudices (crowns, heads, or hearts), flower stalks, flower buds, flowers, and seeds. Preparation: Extensive preparation is often required. Cooking reduces saponins (irritating soap-like compounds). Harvesting: Crowns can be gathered anytime, traditionally, when flower stalks emerge. Flower stalks are best gathered when they first appear (April to June), while still soft. Traditional Method: Native Americans baked agave flower stalks and crowns in fire pits overnight. Baked parts can be consumed immediately or stored for future use. Agave syrup is made by boiling baked crowns with water [2-3].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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None known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

The leaves are a source of fibre , used for making cordage etc[338 , 1842 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agave species are found mainly in the arid and semi-arid regions of southwestern N. America, especially in Mexico. Many species can withstand at least a few degrees of frost and will succeed outdoors in warm temperate climates, but only in drier regions and where soils are very well-drained. Agave species generally require a sunny position, succeeding in most soils of medium fertility so long as they are well-drained. Most species are undemanding about the soil pH, though those found in the wild on limestone soils will grow better in neutral to alkaline conditions. Plants are generally very tolerant of dry conditions and drought[200 ]. Most Agave species are monocarpic, individual rosettes living for a number of years without flowering before sending up an often very large flowering stem and then dying after flowering and setting seed. This species, however, occasionally produces several new rosettes from suckers towards the end of its lifespan, and these new plants will continue to grow after the death of the parent plant[1844 ]. Individual plants take about 7 - 15 years in their native habitat, considerably longer in colder climates, before flowering[11 ]. This species is an important nectar source for the threatened Lesser Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae)[338 ]. Members of this genus are rarely troubled by browsing deer[233 ]. Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer. Wildlife: Flowers are better left for wildlife as they contain acrid compounds, making them unpalatable for human consumption. Environmental Impact: Some species are protected, so gathering may be restricted in certain areas [2-3]. Challenges: Dislodging an agave is difficult and requires tools like a sharp axe. Preparation: Removing leaves to access crowns is challenging due to their toughness and spines  [2-3].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - surface sow in a light position, mid spring in a warm greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 15 - 20°c[133 , 200 ]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of well-drained soil when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a sunny position in the greenhouse until they are at least 15cm tall. Plant out at the beginning of the growing season, and give some protection from the cold for at least their first few winters[K ]. Offsets and suckers can be potted up at any time they are available. Keep in a warm greenhouse until they are well established[200 ]. Bulbils, where produced, are an easy method of propagation. Simply pot them up and plant out at the beginning of a growing season when they are 10cm or more tall.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Palmer’s Agave

Native to: Arizona, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, New Mexico.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Least Concern

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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