Agave deserti var simplex
Agave deserti var simplex, is one of three varieties of the variable species Agave deserti. It generally occurs naturally NE of the Gulf of California although pockets can be found in San Bernadino County, California including parts of the Mojave Desert and then more widespread east into Arizona, from the Harquahala Mountains, NW of Phoenix and the Mohawk and Silverbell Mountains, NW of Tucson, down through the very arid Lechuguilla Desert as far south as Puerto Libertad in Sonora, Mexico.
Usually forming a single rosette although ocassionally forming as many as three suckering offsets, its solitary habit is one of the main distinguishing characteristics from the closely related Agave deserti ssp deserti. It also has a different flower structure with a deeper flower tube and shorter tepals and its populations are largely separate although it does occur alongside Agave deserti var deserti at the southern limits of its range in Puerto Libetad. The Californian populations tend to offset more than the Arizona populations.
With its sparsely suckering habit, Agave deserti var simplex tends to rely predominantly on sexual reproduction in areas that are extremely arid and very hostile to the growth of young seedlings. This fact, coupled with it having been historically gathered both as a source of food and the drink, Mescal; its monocarpic growth and its dependence on the desert bat, Leptonycteris sanborni for pollination, has meant that Agave deserti var simplex is now very poorly represented in the wild with populations relegated to the most remote desert areas and mountain tops.
A true survivor, Agave deserti var simplex deserves to be grown more frequently in Britain. If kept totally dry throughout the winter it can withstand freeezes down to -15C. A raised desert bed with a substrate of rubble, gravel and sand is ideal as is a south-facing sloping gradient with a similar growing medium. It needs very little organic soil and a better approach in the UK climate is to have no soil at all to ensure perfect drainage and then to sparingly top-dress with a slow-release fertiliser.
|Synonyms||Agave consociata, Agave deserti ssp simplex|
|Geographical Origin||NE of the Gulf of California: Arizona with limited populations in SE California and Sonora State in Mexico|
|Cultivation||Full sun. Keep dry and perfectly dry in the winter.|
|Hardiness||Hardy to -15C if kept bone dry|
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