Century Plant (Agave parryi)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Century Plant
Agave parryi

The leaves contain saponins and an extract of them can be used as a soap[2]. It is best obtained by chopping up the leaves and then simmering them in water – do not boil for too long or this will start to break down the saponins[K].

A very strong fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making rope, coarse fabrics etc[2, 61, 92]. A paper can also be made from the fibre in the leaves[2].

The thorns on the leaves are used as pins and needles[2].

The dried flowering stems are used as a waterproof thatch[2] and as a razor strop[89].

  • Medicinal Use

    The sap is antiseptic, diuretic and laxative[21].

  • Edible Use

    The heart of the plant is very rich in saccharine matter and can be eaten when baked[2, 105]. Sweet and nutritious, but rather fibrous[213]. It is partly below ground[85].

    Seed – ground into a flour and used as a thickener in soups or used with cereal flours when making bread[92].

    Young flower stalk – raw or cooked[257]. It was generally roasted[177, 183].

    Tender young leaves – roasted[161].

    Sap from the cut flowering stems is used as a syrup[177]. Nectar from the flowering stems is made into a sweet syrup[183]. The sap can also be tapped by boring a hole into the middle of the plant at the base of the flowering stem[213]. It can be fermented into ‘Mescal’, a very potent alcoholic drink[213].

  • Cautionary Notes

    The plants have a very sharp and tough spine at the tip of each leaf. They need to be carefully sited in the garden.

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – surface sow in a light position, April in a warm greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 1 – 3 months at 20¡c[133]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of well-drained soil when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a sunny position in the greenhouse until they are at least 20cm tall. Plant out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts, and give some protection from the cold for at least their first few winters[K]. Offsets can be potted up at any time they are available. Keep in a warm greenhouse until they are well established[200].
Requires a very well-drained soil and a sunny position[1, 200]. This species is probably the hardiest member of the genus, it survives outdoors grown against a warm wall at Kew[11]. A monocarpic species, the plant lives for a number of years without flowering but dies once it does flower. However, it normally produces plenty of suckers during its life and these take about 10 – 15 years in a warm climate, considerably longer in colder ones, before flowering[11]. This plant is widely used by the native people in its wild habitat, it has a wide range of uses. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233].
South-western N. America – Arizona to New Mexico.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.