Agavaceae, Agave Family
Baja California and coastal southern California
Plains, slopes and coastal terraces
Living Desert Location:
Chase Administration (Agave)
The spines on new leaves often have an attractive yellow or reddish color.
Coastal agave is a fleshy-leaved succulent with closely spaced, overlapping sword- shaped leaves that measure up to 8 inches wide and 18 inches long. The leaves radiate from the center of the plant in a circular manner, giving the plant an attractive appearance and an overall hemispherical or rounded shape. The leaves are deep green and are armed with spines on the edges.
Individual plants grow about three feet tall and wide. As the plants grow, they often form a stem that creeps across the ground. New rosettes (plants) grow off this stem and eventually produce roots and detach from the main stem, forming huge colonies of agaves. This agave can live for 20 to 40 years before it flowers. When a single plant flowers it dies. Some plants survive when the individual rosettes attached to its stem flower and die. Attractive yellow flowers grace the tops of 6 to 12 foot tall flower spikes from February to June. The flowers attract hummingbirds, bats and bees.
Agave shawii subsp. shawii grows in California coastal scrub and receives rainfall during the winter. Proximity to the ocean likely lessens the impact of dry, hot summers on this agave.