Agave americana Scientific name: Agave Americana var. picta Common name: Century plant Origin: Mexico Uses: border; edging; mass planting Description: The Century Plant or Maguey (Agave americana) is an agave originally from Mexico but cultivated worldwide. It has a spreading rosette (about 4 m wide) of gray-green leaves up to 2 meters (6 ft.) long, each with a spiny margin and a heavy spike at the tip. Its common name derives from its habit of only occasionally flowering, but when it does, the spike with a cyme of big yellow flowers, may reach up to 8 meters (25 ft.) in height. The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers or adventitious shoots from the base, which continue its growth. The average life-span is around 25 years. Cultivated varieties include the 'Marginata' with yellow stripes along the margins of each leaf, 'Medio-picta' with a central white band, 'Striata' with multiple yellow to white stripes along the leaves, and 'Variegata' with white edges on the leaves. It is also known as the American aloe, although it is in a different family from the true aloes. If the flower stem is cut without flowering, a sweet liquid called agua miel ('honey water') gathers in the heart of the plant. This may be fermented to produce the drink called pulque, which may then be distilled to produce mezcal. The leaves also yield fibers, known as pita, which are suitable for making rope, matting, coarse cloth and are used for embroidery of leather in a technique known as piteado. Both pulque and maguey fibre were important to the economy of pre-Columbian Mexico. Production continues today to a much lesser extent. Agave syrup (also called agave nectar) has recently been marketed as a healthful natural sugar substitute.