Thursday, August 16, 2012

Agaves at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you probably know that agaves are among my favorite plants. During our recent trip through the Southwest, we spent a day at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Not only did they have tons of cacti (separate post to follow) but there were agaves wherever I looked.

It started right at the entrance with some spotted specimen:

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Agave parryi var. truncata.
The cactus next to it is an organ pipe (Stenocereus thurberi).

The biggest concentrations of agaves was in the appropriately named Agave Garden.

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While elsewhere in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum you will find agaves from Mexico and Central America, the Agave Garden contains only species native to the areas the Museum focuses on, i.e. the Sonoran Desert Region, which also includes parts of the Mohave and Chihuahan deserts.

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Since we arrived right at 7:30am when the Museum opens, I had the Agave Garden to myself and could photograph to my heart’s content. I was excited to see many species I had only read about in books. Depending on which taxonomist you ask, there anywhere from 250 to over 300 agave species, most of which are not commonly grown in gardens.

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In addition to live specimens, I saw quite a few dead agaves that had finishing blooming (most agaves are monocarpic, i.e. they die after flowering). I was amazed by how colorful some of these dying and dead agaves were.

Here are the species I saw in the Agave Garden:

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Agave murpheyi

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Agave murpheyi

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Agave murpheyi

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Agave palmeri

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Agave palmeri

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Agave pelona

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Agave pelona

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Agave multifilifera

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Agave multifilifera

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Agave multifilifera

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Agave shawii ssp. goldmaniana

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Agave shawii ssp. goldmaniana

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Agave shawii ssp. goldmaniana

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Agave avellanidens

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Agave gigantensis

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Agave moranii

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Agave cerulata ssp. nelsonii

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Agave vivipara

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Agave sisalana

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Agave parryi var. couesii

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Agave parryi var. couesii

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Agave parryi var. huachucensis

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Agave parryi var. huachucensis

The Huachuca agave (Agave parry var. huachucensis) was probably the most common agave in the entire Museum. It is native to the Huachuca Mountains in southeastern Arizona. All the photos that follow were taken in other areas, i.e. outside of the Agave Garden.

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Agave parryi var. huachucensis

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Agave parryi var. huachucensis

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Agave parryi var. huachucensis

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Agave parryi var. huachucensis

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Agave parryi var. huachucensis

The remaining photos in this post were taken in the Desert Garden near the restaurants and gallery. This area is meant to inspire homeowners to use more xeric plants in their landscaping.

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Agave victoria-reginae

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Agave victoria-reginae

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Agave victoria-reginae

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Agave victoria-reginae

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Agave vilmoriniana

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Agave vilmoriniana

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Agave vilmoriniana

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Agave chrysoglossa

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Agave chrysoglossa

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Agave chrysoglossa

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Agave colorata

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Agave colorata

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Agave colorata

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Agave bovicornuta

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Agave bovicornuta × colorata

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Agave bovicornuta × colorata

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Agave colorata or Agave bovicornuta × colorata?

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Agave colorata or Agave bovicornuta × colorata?

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Agave ocahui

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Agave arizonica

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Agave arizonica

With a name like Agave arizonica, you’d think it’s a common plant in the Grand Canyon State. Far from it. It’s native only to a small area of central Arizona and for many years was included on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. More recent research indicates that it’s actually not a separate species but a naturally occurring hybrid between Agave chrysantha, a relatively large agave, and Agave toumeyana var. bella, one of the smallest agaves. This led to its delisting in 2006.

I think it’s a beautiful small agave (maybe 8 inches across at maturity) and I would have loved to bring one home. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a local source. I asked Mark Sitter, the owner of B&B Cactus Ranch, during my visit and he explained that there was virtually no demand for it so he wasn’t growing it any longer. Too bad because it really is an attractive plant.

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10 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. "Porn" is the perfect word :-).

      I wonder if this post will get lots of Google hits now that the word "porn" occurs three times...

      Delete
  2. Wow, wow, so many beautiful specimens! Even the agaves in the terracotta bowls look great! And some of them still look good even after their demise (post flowering) :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Desert Museum has quite a few plants in large terracotta bowls--a stunning look. I wish I could buy a few of those bowls.

      Delete
  3. Holy cow Gerhard! Super agave post! I would have gone crazy there myself. Thanks for the super photos and I've never seen baby agave's on a bloom stalk before. So cool!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That Agave vilmoriana bloom stalk must have had hundreds of baby plants. Quite a sight!

      Yes, you would definitely have loved this place.

      Delete
  4. This really is a nice (and beautiful) catalog... of plants I'll never be able to grow here. ;-)

    I love the coloring of the arizonica. I wonder if demand was so low because of the smaller size?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're right about arizonica being unpopular because of its small size. Most people want larger plants that make an impact in the landscape.

      I loved how the Desert Museum staged this colony of arizonica. The chunky rocks were perfect.

      Delete
  5. What a great post! I love the sculptural presence of agaves. Do you know the reason for the basket is on the bloom stalk of Agave palmeri? Bulbil catching?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Agave porn it is! (that's four times now) Thanks for sharing. Did your neck hurt after? My head would have been spinning ala Linda Blair. -- Bom @ plantchaser.com

    ReplyDelete