Agave angustifolia 

 

Agave angustifolia or Caribbean Agave is a rosette forming succulent belonging to the plant family: Agavaceae which is native to Mexico, Central America and the West Indies 

Agave angustifolia

Agave angustifolia is a stunning clumping forming succulent rosette which grows up to a meter across and looks much like an aloe with very sharp spines, it is very drought tolerant. 

 

Uses 

In Mexico Agave angustifolia is a key ingredient in the making of the mezcal liquor known as Bacanora. 

 

Invasive nature 

Agave angustifolia is not on the list of alien invasive plants in South Africa as its brother Agave sisalana, however in my opinion it is just as bad being able to spread rapidly. It is very spiny and makes dense impenetrable clumps that are very difficult and costly to eradicate once its roots and suckers have entrenched themselves in the soil.  

 

Caribbean agave Agave angustifolia has escaped from cultivation as a garden ornamental and become an environmental weed in some other regions of the world such as Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales in Australia. During a recent survey, Caribbean agave Agave angustifolia was listed among the 35 most troublesome weed  species occurring on Queensland's east coast sandy beaches and dunes.   

 

The main contributing factors in the spread of Agave angustifolia in our region is the indiscriminate illegal dumping of unwanted plants and plant pieces onto vacant land as well as uncontrolled plants in neighbours properties that escape across boundary lines into adjoining properties by means of underground suckers. If you want to keep this striking ornamental plant no problem just as long as it is done in a responsible manner. It is best planted in a large container that is kept on a paved surface to not allow it to sucker into the ground and escape. If it absolutely has to be planted into the ground which should never be the case then dispose of all suckers that are produced in a responsible manner on a municipal tip site.  

 

Removal and Control 

Once Agave angustifolia has become established it is very difficult to remove therefore the best form of control is prevention that means do not plant this plant in the first place and if you have it on your property take steps to remove it and do not simply dump any plants or parts of plants other than onto a recognise municipal rubbish dump. If prevention is no longer possible, it is best to get rid of infestations when they are still small to prevent them from establishing and spreading. Plants should be killed before flowers appear and follow up should be done at least annually 

 

Mechanical removal 

Dig out and remove small infestations using a spade or mattock the fiercely spiny leaves would first need to be removed using a bush knife. Unfortunately this method will leave some roots and suckers in the ground that will resprout after a while so follow up is most essential.  

 

Chemical 

Stem inject into heart of the plant using 1 part triclopyr (Tordon®) in 5 parts diesel is effective. The best method is to hammer a wooden dowel which has had the point sharpened and has been soaked in the triclopyr diesel mixture deep into the heart of the plant. 

Alternatively as much of the plant as possible can be removed by cutting with a bush knife or can knife and the remaining stump liberally painted with the triclopyr diesel mix. 

 

When using any herbicide always read the label first and follow all instructions and safety requirements.  

 

Michael Hickman 

02.05.12