Herb: Century Plant

Latin name: Agave utahensis discreta

Family: Agavaceae (Century-plant Family)

Medicinal use of Century Plant:

The sap is antiseptic, diuretic and laxative.

Description of the plant:


4 m
(13 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Dry stony limestone slopes, 1000 - 1500 metres.

Edible parts of Century Plant:

The heart of the plant is very rich in saccharine matter and can be eaten when baked. Sweet and delicious, but rather fibrous. It is partly below ground. Can be dried for future use or soaked in water to produce a flavourful beverage. Seed - ground into a flour. Flower stalk - roasted. Root - cooked. Sap from the cut flowering stems is used as a 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. To make hair brushes and brushes for cleaning, the dried matter of a dead and rotten leaf was knocked free from the fibres, which were then bent in two. the upper end of this brush was wrapped with a cord and the bent portion was covered with a cloth. The loose fibres were cut to the right length and hardened by burning the ends. 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:

Dry stony limestone slopes, 1000 - 1500 metres.

Known hazards of Agave utahensis discreta:

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.