Our Plants

August Plant Highlight: Agave parrasana

by Brian Kemble

Foliage of A. parrasana

Photo by George Hull

Agave parrasana is a beautiful species native to several mountain ranges in the state of Coahuila in north-central Mexico.  Its habitats are remote, and perhaps this is why it is not often seen in cultivation despite its tolerance of freezing temperatures and its attractive compact heads of blue-green leaves.  It typically puts out a modest number of offsets, but does not sucker prolifically like some other agaves.

Like other agave species, A. parrasana is monocarpic.  This means that each rosette of leaves flowers and produces seed only once at the end of its life cycle.  Patience is required to witness its flowering, since plants often take 20 years or more to reach maturity.  This species has the unusual habit of beginning to put out a flowering stalk in summer, then halting in the fall with the stalk part-way up, leaving a clump of thick bracts clustered at the tip to protect the developing flowers.  After waiting out the winter, which can be quite cold in its mountain home, it resumes growth in spring.  Floral branches emerge as the stalk lengthens, each ending in a cluster of red-tinged flowers which turn yellow as they open.  The inflorescence normally attains a height of about 8 to 12 feet, not tall for an agave, but it is quite stout at its base.  The flowering finishes nearly a year after the process began.

flowers of A. parrasana

Photo by Brian Kemble

Mission Statement
The mission of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is to preserve this exceptional example of garden design and to continue to develop its collection of water-conserving plants for the education and enjoyment of the public.
Centennial Celebration
We are celebrating Garden Founder Ruth Bancroft's 100th year throughout 2009. If you would like to get involved in this historic milestone, you can help by contributing to the Centennial Fund or by attending on of our many special events this year.
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