Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Agave lechuguilla, Lechuguilla

Agave lechuguilla, LechuguillaAgave lechuguilla, LechuguillaAgave lechuguilla, LechuguillaAgave lechuguilla, Lechuguilla

Scientific Name: Agave lechuguilla
Common Name: Lechuguilla

Also Called: Maguey Lechuguilla, Shindagger

Family: Agavaceae, Agave or Century Plant Family (Reclassified to Asparagaceae)

Synonyms: (Agave lophantha var. poselgeri)

Status: Native to United States.

Duration: Perennial.

Size: Up to 9 (15) feet; ( 2.7 - 4.5m) or more tall; plants 1½ inches wide and 1 or 2 feet tall.

Growth Form: Forb/herb, shrub, subshrub; plants acaulescent; this species of Agave frequently develops suckers from rhizomes.

Leaves: Green, pale green or yellow-green; leaves thick, ascending to erect; leaf shape linear-lanceolate; leaves tipped with long stout sharp spines; margins also armed with spines.

Flower Color: Yellow and purple, often reddish-tinged; 2 or more flowers in small clusters; filaments also yellow or reddish, anthers yellow (see photo); stamens long exserted; inflorescence an unbranched spicate.

Flowering Season: March to July.

Elevation: 1,500 to 4,500 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Desert plains, mountains, desert scrub.

Recorded Range: Agave lechuguilla is found in the southwestern United States in New Mexico and Texas. It is the most common agave in the Chihuahuan Desert. It is also native to northeast Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Agave lechuguilla.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Wetland Indicator: No information available.

Threatened/Endangered Information: In North America Agave lechuguilla are listed by the State of Arizona as salvage restricted under ARS ยง 3-903(B)(2).

Genus Information: In North America there are 38 species and 38 accepted taxa overall for Agave. World wide, The Plant List includes 200 accepted species names and includes a further 242 infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 12 species of Agave, California has 4 species, New Mexico has 5 species, and Texas has 9 species, Nevada and Utah have 1 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: Agave lechuguilla, although poisonous to domestic livestock, is an important wildlife resource for a large number of mammals, birds and reptiles particularly in the Chihuahuan Desert. This species provides and excellent food source for mule deer especially during the spring following periods of new growth. In Texas, Lechuguilla is a frequent species in Bighorn sheep habitat. Javalina also feed heavily on Lechuguilla especially new young tender leaves.

In Southwestern Desert Flora also see: Goldenflower Century Plant, Agave chrysantha; Parry's Agave, Agave parryi; Schott's Century Plant, Agave schottii; Toumey's Agave, Agave toumeyana v bella; Toumey's Agave, Agave toumeyana.

The genus Agave is from the Greek word "agauos" translated to "admirable" and "noble" a reference to admirable and often stately appearance of the species. The genus Agave was published in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus.

Agave lechuguilla has been used to make fibers for cordage and hair brushes by southwester United States indigenous peoples.
Papago Fiber, Cordage. Leaves used to make rough cordage.
Papago Other, Cash Crop. Fibers and the cordage made from them bartered with the Pimas for blankets and cotton.
Pima Fiber, Brushes & Brooms. Fiber used to make hair brushes.
See ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

Date Profile Completed: 12/28/2016, updated 06/21/2019
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 12/09/2019)
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 01/03/2020).
Hodgson, Wendy. 1999. Agavaceae. Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science and Canotia; 32(1).:1-21
James L. Reveal & Wendy C. Hodgson in Flora of North America (vol. 26); FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Agavaceae; 6. Agave lechuguilla Torrey in W. H. Emory, Rep. U.S. Mex. Bound. 2(1): 213. 1859.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
Gucker, Corey L. 2006. Agave lechuguilla. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: (2006, May 23).
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet [accessed: 12/24/2016]. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information - (accessed 12/24/2016).
ETYMOLOGY: Michael L. Charters; California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology; (accessed 12/09/2019)