The Century Plant serves as the common name for the Agave americana. This is a species of flowering plant in the Agave family that evolved as endemic to the states of Texas, Arizona, in the United States, in North America, as well as to the country of Mexico.
Botanists currently recognize several species in its family, and also numerous cultivars. However, the Century Plant itself has become cultivated in many regions of the world as an extremely popular ornamental plant.
As a result, it has become naturalized in many diverse regions. These include South America, Africa, India, China, Australia, and numerous islands. The species remains popular as an ornamental plant due to its tolerance for arid conditions.
Yet the Century Plant ranks as best known for one thing. The natural sugars of the Century Plant form the source of the sweetener known as agave nectar.
Century Plant Physical Characteristics and Uses
The Century Plant derives its common name from its semelparous nature, not its lifespan. The plant flowers only once, and even then it occurs at the very end of its life.
Once it produces flowers, the Century Plant dies. Prior to this, however, it generates shoots at its base, which produce new plants. The actual lifespan of the species ranges from 10-30 years.
It typically generates a spread of about 4 ft (1.2 m) of grayish green leaves. These sometimes grow as long as 2 ft (0.6 m) and tipped with a strong spike. When flowering, the large yellow flowers occasionally attain a height of as much as 8 ft (2.4 m).
The Century Plant has a rather surprising number of uses. The strong leaves are often cultivated for their natural fibers, known as pita. people use these to make rope, coarse cloth, matting, and embroidery for leather.