Agave shawii, Mother of 'Blue Flame'

Agave shawii at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Agave shawii, along with Agave deserti and Agave utahensis, is one of the few Agaves native to California, but is the only California Agave native to the coastal region.  Agave shawii is a medium sized rosette at 2-3' (60-91 cm) tall by 3' (91 cm) wide, but it eventually can form massive (yet orderly!) thickets of individual plants.  The flower stalk is quite big and bold for an Agave of moderate size. 
Agave shawii bloom at San Diego Botanic Garden:
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Big and bold:
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The last known documented native colony of Agave shawii in California was dug out to expand the Department of Homeland Security's border fence between the US and Mexico.  Aggressive development of coastal California and Baja Mexico are rapidly destroying Agave shawii habitat.  The species is considered endangered in the wilds of Baja and essentially extinct in California.  
The coastal origin of A. shawii is apparent at the Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona.  Too hot for shawii.
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A young colony thriving at the coastal UCI Botanic Garden:
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A stunning loner at the San Diego Botanic Garden:
 photo AgaveShawii7470_zps59da3a39.jpg

I do not have Agave shawii in my garden.  It is a beautiful plant, but an enormous colony of them is a commitment of considerable space.  The closest I've come to a shawii is the hybrid 'Blue Flame', of which Agave shawii is the seed parent.  (The pollen parent is Agave attenuata).  
Spineless, toothless, soft attenuata...
 photo jude6773.jpg 
'Blue Flame' has characteristics of both parents, less fierce than shawii, (but with shawii's vigor), less soft than attenuata, (but with attenuata's grace), while the blue foliage color is all its own. 
Agave 'Blue Flame' looking fairly green at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.  Speaking of enormous colonies...
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The 'Blue Flame' flower:
 photo shawii4330_zpse52dd2b5.jpg
 Bluer and bigger at the San Diego Botanic Garden:
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Our garden's little example, wet and leaf-littered in recent rain:
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And 'Blue Flame' backed with Aeoniums at the Huntington:
Aeonium arborescens with Agave 'Blue Flame' photo dg3741_zpsca67f3a1.jpg
Agave shawii, proud mama.


  1. I first remember seeing Agave shawii at the Santa Barbara Botanical garden, it's a gorgeous plant. Of course it's offspring is rather attractive too. Thanks for the family album.

    1. Santa Barbara--they've replanted a lot, but I haven't been there since the big fire.

  2. I love me some Agave shawii! On my recent visit to the Ruth Bancroft Garden I noticed that they've planted several specimens. If they do OK there, I might try one myself. Our summers are hot, much like yours, but nothing like Phoenix or Tucson.

    My 'Blue Flame' is a very reticent pupper. I've gotten two so far, and my plant is nearing blooming size.

    1. Yes, Tucson & Phoenix are a whole different matter where heat is concerned!

  3. It always amazes me that relatively tiny tufts of foliage can produce flower stalks of huge proportions. Seems a bit weird.

    And speaking of commitments of considerable space, didn't you have a whole almost-empty slope that you're trying to fill? :)

    1. They actually absorb most of their own root systems, and their fat leaves go thin, to make those stalks happen. Quite amazing.

      I did have an almost empty slope. "Did" as in past tense.

  4. Sheesh! They look like they could defend our borders better than some friggin fence.

    1. And they are a lot better looking, too.

  5. Wonderful images dear Hoover, I like your 'Blue Flame" and the Aeoniums at the Huntington look lovely. Glad you have had some rain.
    xoxoxo ♡

    1. The rain was wonderful, Dianne! I hope your weather is good also, not too hot heading towards summer.

  6. There are some Shaw's agaves along the Point Loma lighthouse hiking trail (in San Diego). I assume they are indigenous and not re-introduced specimens. The clusters are small. I didn't realize they were so rare now!

    1. I think there is some question as to whether the shawiis around Point Loma were in fact re-introduced quite a few decades ago. there is a vague reference to it in the wikipedia on shawii, and I think Kelly Griffin mentioned it also when he spoke at the Succulent thingy last spring. (Though I am not sure, so big grain of salt...)

  7. The flower of A. shawii makes me think of the "Alien" movies for some reason. I'm glad 'Blue Flame' didn't take after it's parent in that respect.

    1. The weird look is from the papery covers over the flowers, I think. There's a name for those things--I'll have to look for it. BF does have a smaller version of the covers.

  8. Beautiful images as always! And a nice tribute too to an agave that has led to the much beloved Blue Flame.


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