Agave Notes
Agave palmeri  Palmer's Agave
Agave palmeri is the most common wild agave in southern Arizona, and is a familiar plant in desert grassland, chaparral, and Madrean evergreen woodland communities from 3500-6000 feet.  Typical plants have long, narrow, swordlike leaves of uniform green, few or no offsets, and very tall flowerstalks.  Plants growing at the lower limit of the elevation range often look quite different from the typical form, though they have not been formally described or given recognition as a separate variety.  Leaf rosettes are much smaller, with grayish green color-banded leaves and abundant offsets or "pups".  Flowerstalks are shorter, with fewer flowers and smaller seedpods.  Plants bloom at 8-15 years old and may flower up to a month later than the typical variety.  The smaller form may be an adaptation to hotter, drier growing conditions.  With multiple offsets, plants may be more likely to survive predation by agave weevils and rhinoceros beetles.
I have found the typical A. palmeri growing with the smaller form in the Santa Rita, Mule, Atascosa, and Empire Mountains, which suggests that the two are separate varieties, not just adaptations to local growing conditions.
Typical A. palmeri:  Large rosette, no offsets,
leaves of uniform green.  Mule Mts., AZ
Small form found at the low end of elevation range
for A. palmeri.  Medium-sized rosettes, several to
many offsets, grayish green cross-banded leaves.
Forest form of A. palmeri: many offsets, spreading bluish
green leaves, weak marginal teeth.  Huachuca Mts., AZ.
Also found in the Santa Rita and Chiricahua Mts.

Seedpods of typical A. palmeri and small
form.  Both are from the same locality.
A. palmeri flowers, typical large form. Young A. palmeri offset.
Handground mineral pigments in egg tempera.

Mother of Thousands:  Small form of A. palmeri growing wild in my yard.
About one hundred offsets.  Original rosette killed by weevils in 2002. 
Flowerstalk 8/07

"The Naga"
This unique and very old Agave palmeri specimen has never flowered.
It is growing on the Santa Rita bajada along with normal A. palmeri of both types.
Leaves appear to be the typical large form.  The "arms" are offsets that grew into branches.
The mechanism that triggers flowering, or the ability to develop a flowerstalk, appears to be suppressed.
The original rosette is dead and only the base of its substantial trunk remains, with a few leaves attached.

Agave parryi  Parry's Agave
Southern Arizona's most spectacular agave has a stout rosette of short, broad, bluish-gray to greenish-gray leaves that are tipped with long blackish-purple spines.  The flowerstalk is shorter and more compact than A. palmeri, with thicker branches and more flowers on each branch.  Flowers are pale yellow.
A. parryi var. parryi.  Plant on right has a young flower spike.

A. parry var. huachucensis in the Huachuca Mountains.
Leaves are broader and greener than the typical A. parryi, and plants produce more offsets.

A rare hybrid between A. parry and A. schottiiIt looks very similar to A. x arizonica,
which is a hybrid between A. chrysantha and A. toumeyana var. bella.

Other Agaves in Southern Arizona

A. deserti var. simplex A. parviflora A. schottii

Agave parryi var. truncata (cultivated)

8/02 5/05 12/06 6/07

Arizona Rare Cactus Photos
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