Agave Salvation


The two native agaves of the Patagonia area are critical nectar resources to the two species of migrating nectar-feeding bat that flies through the area biannually. The agaves and bats coevolved, timing major life-events with each other. As bats fly across the grasslands and desert of Southeastern Arizona in spring and fall, these two species of agaves are timed to shoot up their flowering stalks to lure the bats into moving pollen from one flowering stalk to another with the reward of nutritious and plentiful nectar. Therefore, maintaining healthy populations of these two species of native agaves is critical to maintaining healthy populations of these nectar feeding bats.

Last week, a whole crew of us descended upon a large population (400+ plants) of the Huachuca Agave, Agave parryi var. huachucensis. Many of these individuals were clonal pups, crowding each other out as they continued to grow.

Harvested pups were brought to the Borderlands Restoration greenhouse located on the Native Seeds/SEARCH Conservation Farm to be grown out by Francesca. Eventually these babies will be used to create new patches of Huachuca Agave throughout the landscape.

These special agaves flower themselves to death. As they age, sugars and nutrients are collected in the “heart” of this creatures rosette. With a final hurrah, the agave shoots up a stalk a dozen feet in the air that flourishes with hundreds of flowers dripping with delicious nectar. Many other pollinators are supported by the sugar-packed nectar the agave produces to entice support in its reproduction. Like many plants, the agave hedges its bets. It also produces clones, pups that oftentimes outlive the parent.

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About Caleb

I'm an ecologist, environmental educator, sustainable landscape designer, and a naturalist. I work with to restore native pollinator habitat in and around the farms of Southern Arizona. My goal is to forge connections between people and the natural world.

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