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Utah Agave (Agave utahensis)
Yuccas Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
Utah 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. It also occurs on the edge of the Colorado Plateau floristic zone in southern-most Utah and northwestern Arizona.

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.


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 in the past.

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:

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
Name Agave utahensis var. utahensis Agave utahensis var. eborispina Agave utahensis var. nevadensis
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; Gold Butte

*Note: the literature conflicts on some details here.

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
Agave (Agave utahensis)
Several related basal rosettes
Agave (Agave utahensis)
Basal rosette well guarded by spines
Agave (Agave utahensis)
Fresh flowers
Agave (Agave utahensis)
Dry seed pods
Agave (Agave utahensis)
Unusually long and bent over flowering stalk.
Utah Agave (Agave utahensis)
Basal rosettes bloom and die, but the rest of the plant lives on

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
copyright; Last updated 170902

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