Herb: Century Plant


Latin name: Agave parryi


Family: Agavaceae (Century-plant Family)



Medicinal use of Century Plant:

The sap is antiseptic, diuretic and laxative.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Perennial

Height:
50 cm
(1 foot)

Habitat of the herb:

Semi-arid land, 1300 - 2400 metres, often experiencing snow in winter with temperatures as low as -18°C for short periods.

Edible parts of Century Plant:

The heart of the plant is very rich in saccharine matter and can be eaten when baked. Sweet and nutritious, but rather fibrous. It is partly below ground. Seed - ground into a flour and used as a thickener in soups or used with cereal flours when making bread. Young flower stalk - raw or cooked. It was generally roasted. Tender young leaves - roasted. Sap from the cut flowering stems is used as a syrup. Nectar from the flowering stems is made into a sweet syrup. The sap can also be tapped by boring a hole into the middle of the plant at the base of the flowering stem. It can be fermented into "Mescal", a very potent alcoholic drink.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves contain saponins and an extract of them can be used as a soap. 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. A very strong fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making rope, coarse fabrics etc. A paper can also be made from the fibre in the leaves. The thorns on the leaves are used as pins and needles. The dried flowering stems are used as a waterproof thatch and as a razor strop.

Propagation of Century Plant:

Seed - surface sow in a light position, April in a warm greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 20C. 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. Offsets can be potted up at any time they are available. Keep in a warm greenhouse until they are well established.

Cultivation of the herb:

Semi-arid land, 1300 - 2400 metres, often experiencing snow in winter with temperatures as low as -18°C for short periods.

Known hazards of Agave parryi:

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

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.