Agave vilmoriniana

Supplied FREE, courtesy of the Manie van der Schijff Botanical Garden at the University of Pretoria
One packet of 5 propagules will be supplied to each order placed on Livingseeds while stocks last.

The genus Agave is a true peoples plant, and was (and is) heavily utilised for thousands of years for fiber for cordage and clothing, food, building materials and yes, even alcohol (such as tequila and its sister spirit, mescal, or the more traditional maguey “wine”, pulque). So much so that the Mexica people (also known as the Aztec people), even had a goddess of the Agave, Mayahuel.
The Meso-American peoples have a deep appreciation for and relationship with the natural world. Which is perhaps why so many of our modern food crops were first domesticated in Central America (tomatoes and chilli spring immediately to mind).
So it will come as no surprise to learn that these clever people have , for generations, utilised species of Agave for the high sapogenin content they hold, for medicine, and for soap!
The plantlets you are holding in your hand are the gold standard of these, Agave vilmoriniana, which to this day is still used both from the wild and in cultivation, as a source of surfactant. Grease stripping power for washing cloths, dishes and bodies.

Known to have a very high concentration of the sapogenin smilagenin, which is also of interest in modern research as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, the plant is also very pretty with gracefully curved leaves, no spines on the leaves at all and a single crown. Yes, that’s right folks, this plant does not embarrass itself with a huge clump of baby heads around the roots, but stays neat and single headed in a garden.
It reproduces only once in its life, and these little babies you hold in your hand are from one of those once a decade event!
This compact plant thrives on neglect. It can be included in multi-cropping, planted on retaining walls, in waste areas of the garden etc. It requires no supplemental irrigation in all but the driest areas of South Africa, and is almost entirely sterile, so cannot set seed and can thus be considered non-invasive. It also can tolerate the cold encountered in most areas of the country.
The usable part of the plant are its older leaves. In Mexico they are cut off, one end is mashed and the whole thing is dried out to be used as a fibrous brush with built in soap!
In tests we have run, a few slices of fresh older leaf (these are leaves toward the bottom of the rosette), slightly banged up with a mallet, had water foaming and grease stripping power that needed to be seen to be believed.
The smilagenin also keeps any and all agricultural pests at bay, making it a promising biocontrol spray, and incidentally also mean this is not a plant you can use to brew any mescal, as this compound will gum up your still.

Generally, agave plants flower only once, converting all their energy into a flowering stalk that can reach 5m high and producing masses of flowers. Its after the flowers that this weird plant makes thousands of clonal babies (or bulbils) on its tall flower stalk. In the wild, this plant grows on cliff faces, and these babies, as they are thrown off to root, are how the plants “climb” higher and higher each generation.

Octopus Agave tends to flower only once a decade, so look after your plants and don’t overharvest leaves!

Disclaimer: Livingseeds do stress the need to perform allergy tests before washing all your cloths with this plant, and, despite smilagenin having promise as a modern medicine, this plant is not used traditionally as an internal medicine in Mexico. We don’t encourage anyone to experiment with this plant internally, although it is non-toxic if used correctly.

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Soap or Octopus Agave

  • Product Code: 181-0010
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • Maximum Quantity: 1
  • R0.01

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