The Agavaceae Family
There is a family of plants, Agavaceae, that is especially well suited to living in climates where the rain might not come till next year. The Agavaceae family lives in hot and dry desert regions and includes many well known genera such as the abiding Joshua Trees, the ornamental Yucca groups and the versatile Agaves.
There are actually over 600 individual species in 18 different genera in the Agavaceae family. Plants of this family are found throughout the world in many countries within the warm-temperate to tropical regions of the world.
Typically, plants of the Agavaceae family bear longer leaves which culminate in a thorny spine at their tip, many also feature an array of thorns along their sides as well. Many plants within the species are succulent, which means their thick leaves function as water supplies for especially dry seasons. These leaves are often arranged in a neat rosette. The Joshua Tree features these rosettes at the tip of their long woody stems.
Over 200 species of the Agavaceae family belong to the Agave Genera. Many of these species are valued for their attractive flowers and grace the homes and desert-style landscaping projects across the world. These flowers are especially sweet smelling and bloom after dark, this way they can be pollinated by bats that are more common in the desert than bees.
Landscapers across the world value agave plants for the unique beauty; no cactus arrangement is complete without at least one. Legends say that the agave will take 100 years to fully bloom and then it will die. The truth is an Agave plant will live about 25 years, but the rest is true for many species, one perfect blossom and then they die.
While they make excellent addition to a landscape, the thorns are especially dangerous around children and certain pets as well. They survive most climates very well and will not suffer from a lack of water due to their thick succulent leaves.
The leaves of plants in the agave family have been used repeatedly throughout the ancient and modern world for a variety of uses. The leaves themselves contain long fibers that can serve a number of purposes when treated with an experienced hand. Native American civilizations used these fibers extensively.
Before the advent of nylon rope fibers, some species of agave had huge commercial value. Hemp is derived from the Agave Sisalana species and can be used in the production of rugs, fabrics and other materials. The specific way the fibers are arranged make them especially suited to the weaving process.
The central bud of certain members of the Agave genera are especially high in carbohydrates. A fact that didn’t go unnoticed by many Native American peoples. This starchy center was fermented all across North America to create an especially potent brew called Pulque. This was often used in religious ceremonies; production of pulque is still in operation throughout many countries in North America.
Another liqueur made of the Agave plant is called Mezcal, which represents a step up in the distillation process in comparison to pulque. With more preparation and a better mash mezcal is a smoother beverage than pulque. Finer liquor that has been made of the Agave Azul (Blue Agave) grown in Mexico can be called true Tequila, the champagne of Agave Liquors.