Losing another large agave

This summer, I removed two agaves, Agave bovicornuta and Agave shrevei var. matapensis × Agave guadalajarana. They had flowered and were dying. Bittersweet, but the ultimate fate of most agave species.

It’s one thing taking out an agave that has come to the end of its life span. It’s something else entirely when an agave (a large one to boot) croaks seemingly from one day to the next.

A few weeks ago, I noticed something was amiss with Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’ in the sidewalk strip:

The leaves had begun to fold in on themselves in a rather extreme way:

And black liquid was coming out of the center:

Black stuff oozing out of any plant is never a good sign.

Even worse, I was able to rock the entire agave back and forth with just one hand. Friends who stopped by during my open garden for the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society confirmed what I already knew: It was a goner.

Removing ‘Jaws’ was easy: I was able to pull the entire rosette to the curb with nothing but my two hands. There it is, waiting for yard waste pickup next week:

To be honest, I had already been toying with the idea of removing ‘Jaws’ to make room for other plants. But I hadn’t decided yet. Now I didn’t have to because the decision was made for me.

Next, I cut off the leaves sticking out too far into the sidewalk and the street. Stella wasn’t quite sure what to make of it:

A closer look revealed extensive rot:

My initial fear had been death by agave snout weevil. It’s not common in Northern California (yet), but there have been several cases right here in Davis. The symptoms are very similar to what our ‘Jaws’ presented.

However, after removing the rosette, I saw that the soil was completely drenched. There were no signs of snout weevils. I was puzzled by what could have caused this, but then I noticed that the moisture had come from under the fence – in other words, from the backyard. This is what I found there:

The stump you see in the photo above is from our Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ that had fallen over last January. The water was coming from under it. I quickly identified the irrigation line involved and turned it off. (Being able to control the sprinkler valves from an app on my phone is a wonderful thing.)

We’re going to have the acacia stump ground out in the next week or two, and then I’ll dig up the area to check the PVC pipes for damage. I hate irrigation issues, especially when digging is involved. This must be a recent issue, otherwise I would have noticed this leak earlier.

Back to the sidewalk strip. See the silver-leaved subshrub in front of ‘Jaws’?

We had received an official complaint from the City of Davis that this plant (and another one) were encroaching into the sidewalk so I had to hack it way back. Not a pretty sight afterwards:

As much as I loved this Helichrysum thianschanicum ‘Icicles’, it had simply gotten too large and would constantly need to be trimmed. I took a deep breath, got my Root Slayer, and dug it up, too.

In an effort to build up the spot a bit, I dumped several bags of soil and 40 pounds of crushed basalt I had lying around:

That’s as far as I’ve come. Now I need to decide what to plant there. I have several landscape-sized aloes that really need to go in the ground, Aloe munchii and Aloe ‘Superman’ (A. cameronii × white-flowering A. ferox). Maybe they’ll live here now. I’ll take my time until I know for sure.

© Gerhard Bock, 2023. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Irrigation woes are the worst! Even pin-hole leaks in a pipe cause damage. I hope you're able to get to the root of it soon. I've no doubt whatsoever that you'll find a suitable plant to fill the space.

  2. Best news is you saw no evidence of Agave snout weevil--unless perhaps the leak drowned them all? Which would have been a happy ending, in a way.

  3. Sorry to hear about Jaws and the Helichrysum. However, takes the decision of whether to remove it out of your hands and allows you to create something new.

  4. Sorry you lost Gentry Jaws. I have one in my front garden that is about 3.5 feet tall. I never water it so I can see why yours was not happy at all!

  5. Thank got it wasn't the snout weevil, I was worried.

  6. Sorry about Jaws & Helichrysum. A new spot to plant out is always exciting!


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