Scientific name: Agave chiapensis
Plant type: Succulent
Environment: Full sun to part shade, does not require frequent water
Uses: Specimen plant
Agave chiapensis is a threatened Agave endemic to Mexico currently blooming in the succulent garden. The species was first described by Georg Alabno von Jacobi in the Hamburger Garten- Blumenzeitung in 1866. Jacobi was a German botanist who specialized in the study of Agave.
Within Mexico, A. chiapensis is only found in Oaxaca and Chiapas, southern states near the border with Guatemala. There it is often found growing on limestone cliffs in pine-oak forests at elevations from 900 to 2500 m. Though it occurs in two different Mexican states it actually has a relatively small range within those regions. Additionally, the species has experienced population decline due to construction and urban expansion in its native range. As a result, it is considered Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. A. chiapensis is also protected under the Mexican national list of threatened species as a species requiring special protection. It is also found in several protected areas throughout its native range.
Some of the individuals of Agave chiapensis seen in the Garden were grown from seed collected in Chiapas by Dr. Dennis Breedlove. Dr. Breedlove was a curator of botany at the California Academy of Sciences who collected extensively in Chiapas, Mexico in the mid to late twentieth century. Noticing the similarities between the climates of the high elevation forests in Mesoamerica and San Francisco, Dr. Breedlove brought back many plants with the hope of introducing them to the region. As such his collections forms much of the basis of the Garden’s nationally accredited Mesoamerican Cloud Forest collection.
Agave chiapensis is a medium sized Agave with large flowering stalks. The leaves are relatively low growing, and the flowering stalks can grow up to 6 ft. These stalks produce green flowers that are flushed with red or purple. A. chiapensis will also often grow in patches of rosettes.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text and Profile by Victoria Stewart. Photos by Saxon Holt and Victoria Stewart.