Cover image for Agaves, yuccas, and related plants : a gardener's guide
Agaves, yuccas, and related plants : a gardener's guide
Irish, Mary, 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
312 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
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SB317.A2 I75 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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These exotic natives of the Americas are among the most striking of drought-tolerant plants, and they make wonderful accents in the landscape, providing excellent contrasts to flowering perennial plantings. They can also be massed effectively, and many of the species are small, ideal for use in containers.

The authors point out that innovative nurseries and gardeners in cool, humid regions of North America and Europe have shown that many of these plants may be suitable for areas with climates very different from their native range. Full information on cultivation and propagation is provided.

Author Notes

Mary Irish is the former director of public horticulture at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona
Gary Irish holds a master's degree in plant geography from Texas AandM University

Reviews 1

Choice Review

For gardeners or plant collectors in the Americas, the Irishes, desert gardener and photographer, offer authoritative guidance in the study of these interesting plants. The detailed historical introduction provides background information on yucca and agave classification and its development. The main body of the book is made up of detailed descriptions of genera and species; the species descriptions provide vegetative and floral details along with indications of blooming times, distributions, methods of propagation, and requirements for cultivation. Species are illustrated with a series of color photographs supplemented by a few line drawings. A chapter devoted to horticulture and cultivation includes a chart detailing the cold tolerance of selected species. Readers will learn in that chapter that while most of these plants are associated with deserts and gardens of the southwestern US and Mexico, many also have a long and successful history in other parts of the world. With this well-written and documented book one can seek and identify these plants in the wild or tame them for the garden. It is an admirable blend of general information with scientific and technical detail. General readers. D. H. Pfister; Harvard University



Most Agave species are monocarpic (blooming once in the life of the plant); only a few species are polycarpic (blooming repeatedly through the life of the plant). Agaves, in general, have large leaves arranged in a spiral along a small, often visible, stem to form a rosette. Rosettes are a common adaptation to desert or arid conditions. This growth form allows water to be directed down the leaves, like a channel, to the root zone. During times of serious drought, the small stem of an agave will shrink, allowing a tiny fissure in the soil around the plant base, further increasing the utility of the rosetts form in channeling water when it does rain. Rosettes are common in many genera from arid regions including all other members of the families Agavaceae and Nolinaceae, and genera from other families such as Aloe, Haworthia, and Gasteria, to name a few. The leaves of Agave usually are hard or somewhat rigid and very fibrous inside. Many have prominent sharp marginal teeth, and almost all leaves have a rigid and very sharp terminal spine. A rosette may have fewer than 20 leaves or as many as 200, depending on the species. The leaves are thick and succulent, with specialized cells for water storage. Most leaves are coated with a fine to heavy wax cuticle. This cuticle is an adaptation to prevent excessive water loss through the leaves, retaining as much water within the leaf as possible to endure long periods of drought. Excerpted from Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide by Mary Irish, Gary Irish All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 7
Acknowledgmentsp. 11
Chapter 1 History of the Familiesp. 13
Agavaceaep. 13
Nolinaceaep. 22
Chapter 2 Description of the Generap. 25
Agavep. 26
Yuccap. 32
Hesperaloep. 38
Furcraeap. 40
Manfredap. 41
Beschorneriap. 42
Polianthesp. 43
Nolinap. 43
Dasylirionp. 44
Beaucarneap. 46
Calibanusp. 48
Chapter 3 Horticulture and Cultivationp. 49
Ornamental Historyp. 49
Economic and Ornamental Distributionp. 55
Ethnobotanyp. 59
Plantingp. 65
Wateringp. 68
Containersp. 71
Frost Protectionp. 75
Seed Propagationp. 81
Vegetative Propagationp. 83
Pest, Disease, and Cultural Problemsp. 88
Chapter 4 Species Profilesp. 93
Agavep. 93
Beaucarneap. 184
Beschorneriap. 190
Calibanusp. 192
Dasylirionp. 193
Furcraeap. 202
Hesperaloep. 207
Manfredap. 215
Nolinap. 220
Polianthesp. 232
Yuccap. 234
Key to Agavep. 277
Key to Yuccap. 283
Plants Suitable for Humid Gardensp. 285
Map of Mexico and Adjacent Areasp. 288
Glossaryp. 289
Bibliographyp. 293
Indexp. 299