[Ocean Oasis Field Guide] Satellite image of the Baja California peninsula and Gulf of California See Spanish version

Agave shawii ssp. goldmaniana
Agave, Mescal, Maguey

AGAVACEAE (Agave Family)

The generic name refers to the Greek Agaue which is a proper name meaning the noble or illustrious one.


This agave is a perennial fleshy plant that has gray-green lance shaped leaves 10-18 cm (4-8 inches) wide and 40 to 70 cm (16-28 inches) long. The leaves have marginal teeth 10-15 mm (1/2 inch) long and spine-like tips 3-4 cm (1-1/2 inch) long. The plant grows to 1 m (3 feet) tall and after several years produces a flower spike 3-5 m (9-15 feet) tall. The yellow flowers open from September to May and are carried on a long stalked inflorescence that has a pyramidal arrangement to the flower clusters and produces 18-25 lateral branches. This subspecies has longer, lighter green leaves and a more pyramidal top of the inflorescence than A. shawii spp. shawii.

Range and Habitat

This agave is found in central Baja California area from El Rosario inland and to the east along the Pacific slopes and south to Vizcaíno Bay.

Natural History

Agaves provided the most accessible and abundant food source on the peninsula during the pre-Columbian period. It is often described as a rather bland staple food. Cattle eat the flower stalks.

Agave shawii, photo by Reid Moran

Text by Bob Lauri
Photograph by Reid Moran

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