Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Agave lechuguilla


Lechuguilla, Tula ixtle


Agavaceae (Century-Plant Family)



Agave lechuguilla (Lechuguilla)
Lytle, Melody
The succulent, yellow-green rosettes of lechuguilla are 1-2 ft. tall and widely suckering. Thick, leathery leaves are tipped with a strong spine. The lechuguilla, like its relative, the maguey or century plant, requires 1215 years to store up enough food for the production of the large flower stalk, which then grows amazingly fast up to 15 feet tall. The stalk is unbranched and flexible, so that it often bends when it is heavy with buds or flowers, retaining a permanent, graceful arc. The upper part of the stalk is covered with a solid mass of purplish or yellowish flowers. After producing flowers and seeds, the stalk dies.

This formidable plant was a dangerous obstacle in the early exploration of the Southwest. The sharp leaves pierced horses legs, and a rider who fell could be impaled. Horses familiar with the country can usually avoid it.

Image Gallery:

19 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Size Notes: 1-2 feet.
Fruit:
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink , Yellow
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul

Distribution

USA: NM , TX
Native Distribution: W. TX, s. NM & Mex.
Native Habitat: Desert plains; mountains

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Dry, rocky, limestone soils.
Conditions Comments: The succulent, yellow-green rosettes of lechuguilla are widely suckering. Thick, leathery leaves are tipped with a strong spine. A cluster of yellow to pinkish-white flowers occurs on a 6-9 ft. stalk which rises from center of rosette after 8-20 years. After setting fruit, the entire plant dies. This agave is often cultivated in rock gardens. It is tolerant of poor, acid soil.

Benefit

Use Wildlife: The plant reproduces by putting out offshoots, which are often eaten by deer and javelinas.
Use Food: The hearts not safe to eat. Dangerously high concentrations of saponins and other toxic compounds.(Tull) Pulque, mescal, and tequila are made from the fermented sap of the flower stalk.
Use Medicinal: Toxic juice from leaves used as arrow poison, a fish stupefier, a medicine and a soap. (Tull) Tarahumara people of Mexico once used the plants poisonous compounds on their arrows and in water to poison fish.
Use Other: Leaf fibers for cordage for bow strings, nets, baskets, mats, sandals, blankets, and cloth. Roots pounded and soaked in water used for soap and shampoo. (Tull) Native Americans obtained fiber from the leaves to make rope, mats, and baskets.
Warning: Certain compounds in Lechuguilla are poisonous, and livestock can die from eating this plant during a drought, when the succulent leaves become the forage of last resort. Humans should generally avoid consuming any plants that are toxic to animals. The leaves of Lechuguilla are so sharp they can cause injury to animals and humans and can even puncture the tires of off-road vehicles.
Interesting Foliage: yes

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Agave lechuguilla is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Coahuila Giant-Skipper
(Agathymus remingtoni)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2014-03-14