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Utah Agave (Agave utahensis)
Yuccas Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
 
Agave (Agave utahensis)

Utah Agave (Agave utahensis) is a succulent perennial with short, stout, upright, blue-green leaves that arise from a basal rosette and are well guarded on the edges and tips with spines. In the spring, some plants in a population send up a tall flower stalk that bears many yellow flowers. After a plant blooms, it dies.

Utah Agave is a locally common (not found everywhere, but where found it can be quite common) species of rocky areas in the Mojave Desert in the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub and Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) life zone.

Agave (Agave utahensis)

Family: Agave (Agavaceae).

Other Names: century plant.

Plant Form: basal rosette with tall flowering stalk.

Height: Basal leaves to about knee-high, but flowering stalk 6-12 feet.

Trunk: none.

Leaves: Long daggers with spines along the edges and a sharp tip.

Flowers: Blooms in the spring or early summer. Inflorescence a spike. Flowers large, yellowish, and waxy.

Agave (Agave utahensis)
Unusually long and bent over flowering stalk.

Seeds:

Elevation: About 3,000 to 6,000 ft.

Distribution: California to Utah and Arizona.

Comments: Judging from the number of agave roasting pits around the desert, these must have been more common at one time.

Agave (Agave utahensis)

In southern Nevada, there are three varieties of Utah Agave:

In addition, there is another variety of Utah Agave in southern Utah and northern Arizona:

  • Kaibab agave (Agave utahensis var. kaibabensis).
Agave (Agave utahensis)

The three varieties in Nevada can be identified by a combination of characters, including the size of the lateral spines, the length and color of the terminal spine, and to some extent location.

Character Utah Agave Ivory-spined Agave Clark Mountain Agave
Lateral spine size 0.1 inch 0.2-0.5 inch 0.2 inch
Terminal spine length 1.5 inches 7 inches 1.5-3.0 inches
Terminal spine color gray-brown ivory brown to white
Location* Gold Butte, Mormon Mts. east into Utah and Arizona. Desert National Wildlife Range, Nevada Test Site Spring Mountains south into California

*Note: the literature conflicts on some details here.

Agave (Agave utahensis) Kaibab agave (A. u. var. kaibabensis) is similar to Utah Agave (A. u. var. utahensis), but the Kaibab variety has taller flower stalks (3-7.5 m), larger leaves (30-50 cm long), and tends not to have sprouts at the base. Kaibab agave is found at higher elevations around Zion and the Grand Canyon.
Agave (Agave utahensis)
Boring beetles attack the flowering stalks of agave, and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers drill holes in the stalk to extract the tasty grubs.
Agave (Agave utahensis)
Ladder-backed Woodpecker drill holes in agave stalk
Agave (Agave utahensis)
Ladder-backed Woodpecker drill holes in agave stalk
Agave (Agave utahensis)
Ladder-backed Woodpecker drill holes in agave stalk

 
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Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 100319

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