Selected Trees and Shrubs
Agave caribaeicola; Synonyms: A. caribaea, A. medioxima, Common name: Century Plant, Langue Boeuf
Description: Stem seemingly absent; leaves long, green, and lanceolate, up to 2 m long (6.5 ft) and 20 cm wide (8 in), organized in a large, attractive basal rosette, are thick and succulent, with small marginal spines and sharp brown apical spines, older leaves bent waterfall-like; inflorescence a tall central panicle, up to 8 m (26 ft); flowers in clusters, yellowish green, 7-8 cm wide (about 3 in); fruit a capsule with numerous flat, black, shiny seeds; plant blooms in a single large inflorescence after many years, anywhere from 8-25 years, using all its energy to produce flowers and seeds; when blooming is finished, plant dies; in the Gardens, one specimen can be seen near the hedge north of the Red Ficus tree (Ficus benghalensis) opposite the office compound.
Plant Family: Belongs to the Agavaceae family, which includes Sisal or Hemp used in rope making (Agave sisalana), the popular ornamental, Yucca (Yucca sp.), and the Blue Agave of Mexico (Agave tequilana) from which the best Tequila is made.
Natural Habitat: The dry, leeward, west coast bluffs and cliffs of the Eastern Caribbean islands.
Origin and Distribution: Native to the West Indies; and in Dominica, grows in several areas along the west coast; no reports available on propagation, though typically Agaves propagate by seed, suckers or bulbils.
Uses: Occasionally grown as a specimen ornamental, but its leaf spines and the length of time it takes to flower limit its ornamental value. The leaf fibres can be used to make rope, though they are not as strong as those of Sisal. In Dominica these fibres were extracted to make the costumes of certain African-themed carnival bands (ban mauvais); very similar costumes are on display in the African exhibit of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Indigenous Legends and Anecdotes: Once believed to live for a century, bloom once and die, many large Agaves, including this one, have been called Century Plants (distinct from the Century or Talipot Palm).
Robert A. DeFilipps. Useful Plants of the Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 1998
Arlington James. An Illustrated Guide to Dominica’s Botanic Gardens. Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Dominica 2007
John Moore. “Agaves and Yuccas” in Cacti, Succulents and other Xeric Plants. Edited by Curtis E. Swift, Cooperative Extension Service, Colorado State University, Grand Junction, CO, 2001 (www.coopext.colostate.edu, Nov. 2009)
W.H Hodge. Flora of Dominica, B.W.I. Part I. Lloydia, Vol 17. Nos 1.2 and 3, 1954
Andrew J. Lack, Caroline Whitefoord, Peter G.H. Evans, Arlington James & Helen Greenop. Dominica: Nature Island of the Caribbean, Illustrated Flora. Ministry of Tourism, Roseau, Commonwealth of Dominica, 1997
Preface - How it Began
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Trees, Shrubs, Birds:
Selected Trees and Shrubs
Florida's Fairchild Garden
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