Desert Museum Part 2: Agaves


Agave vilmoriniana
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You might think Tucson is a paradise for Agaves, and you would be wrong.  Agaves prefer higher elevations (5,000-6,000 feet, 1500-1800 M).  In Tucson the sun is too bright, the heat too extreme.  There is also the Agave mite and the Agave snout weevil to contend with.  Generally, the Agaves we saw were not as beautiful and healthy as ones in southern California.  The pair of vilmorinianas above were the best I saw.  They were living in the all-day dappled shade of some trees.  Others at the Desert Museum were not so fortunate.  
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I've seen splendid, thriving specimens of A. shawii in inland California, but Tucson has burnt this one.  Or is that Agave mite damage?
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deserti with some shade looked fairly good.
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Most of the coloratas also looked good, with banding and leaf-impressons.  
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A. ocahui also stood up to Tucson.  Ocahui is one of the parents of 'Blue Glow' and this apparently is where 'Blue Glow' gets its beautiful symmetry.  This one does look somewhat toasted, but it was in full sun, and that it looked good at all in full sun was impressive. 
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The Desert Museum had several variations on A. parryi, some quite beautiful.  
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One thing I did notice around town (though not at the Museum) was that most Agaves had the bottom rows of leaves trimmed off.  Was it due to dry out, like the one above, or rabbit damage?  In my far more gentle climate, Agaves have less of a dried-out lower leaf problem, though trimming seems to be popular, G-d knows why.  Trimmed, they look fussed over.
Agave cerulata nelsonii.  Haven't seen this one before.  This was the most attractive of a group.  The rest had more sun damage than this one.
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A. pelona--maybe...I'm going by the signs on the plants, which I assume might be incorrect.  They had an Aloe labeled as striata that I was 100% sure was not striata. 
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A. vivipara
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A. pelona.  These generally looked pretty good, even in full sun.  
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Flower stem:
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 A. murphyii.  Nice banding.
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A. multifilfera, which can eventually form a short trunk. Nice fibers! 
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 The multifilfera reminded me of something...couldn't quite place it...oh yeah!
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We were unable to visit any private gardens in the Tucson area, so a greater variety and more beautiful Agaves are probably out there somewhere, but likely growing best with some irrigation and protection from the snout weevil, the Agave mite, and the sun.   
 I was surprised, too, that Yuccas looked stressed--sun burnt.  In my garden they are even tougher than Agaves. 
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Well-watered Nolina (?) on the east side of a building, looking lavishly pampered:
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The plants that without exception looked to be thriving were Dasilyrion wheeleri.  Where ever we went, freshly planted or long neglected, irrigated or not, they looked fabulous.
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Comments

  1. We tend to forget that many agaves are not full desert plants. I was laughed at on a forum for saying that damage to an agave was from too much sun and heat in the UK (the plant had been grown inside for a year and suddenly put outside mid summer in full sun)
    And mites and weevils scare me, so far the UK has managed to avoid them for agaves, but no doubt they will get here at some point.

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    1. Yes, exactly. So many photos of Agaves in habitat, and where are they? In the shade of trees, on the north side of slopes. They are as sensitive to placement as any other plant.

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  2. Interesting that the Agaves are heat stressed in Tuscon.

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    1. Apparently everything is heat-stressed in Tucson. ;)

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  3. Having not grown any before this year, I always thought that Agaves were more like cactus in that they wanted heat and sun, as much as possible.

    Love Dasilyrion every time I see a photo. If I lived in the right climate I'd have several. :-)

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    1. I'm also more impressed with the Dasilyrion wheeleri every time I see it, now I want one!

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  4. Your observations are really good. I'm not sure on the irrigation (or lack thereof) at the Desert Museum, but the more I see So Cal blogs w/ photos of many of our desert native species (esp. many rosette succulents), they seem happier there than here! Jealous.

    So, I just remind myself of the cost of living and traffic. It sometimes works!

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    1. yes, the traffic, the expense, the crowds, the disconnect from nature.

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  5. As I mentioned yesterday I've never been to the Desert Museum, but I have been to several area nurseries, the Tucson Botanical Garden, and walked through many neighborhoods looking at the gardens. Lucky for me I've found there to be beautiful Agaves all through Tucson.

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    1. No doubt. Our time was limited. The DM works for a very natural environment, and the Agaves in shade looked wonderful. The snout-weevil is apparently devastating--a pest that has not made it everywhere, thankfully.

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    2. My brother in Phoenix has lost several established Agaves to the evil weevil. The thought send shivers up my spine.

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  6. Thanks for this great post! I'm always wanting to move somewhere drier and warmer but this tour of tortured agaves makes me happy to be right where I am. Do your dogs travel with you?

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    1. Tucson was gorgeous & we loved it. It's so beautiful, if you have not been, its a great place to visit. Pups did not travel with us this time, but I think in future when they are a little older and calmer, we will take them along.

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