Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Agave parryi, Parry's Agave

Parry's Agave has green or gray-green succulent leaves that overlap each other (imbricate). Leaves vary from 4 to 26 inches long depending on which sub-species or variety you’re looking at. Note the claw-like appendages along the margins and at the terminal spine. Agave parryi Parry's Agave is also call generically Century Plant or more specifically Parry’s Century Plant. This species may grow up to 3 feet (86 cm) tall by 34 inches (85 cm) wide. Note the plants compact and grows in rosettes. Agave parryiParry's Agave has bright yellow to greenish-yellow flowers along a flowering stem called a scape or scapepose inflorescence. Buds are pink or red in color. Agave parryiParry's Agave often is observed growing in small colonies arising from roots generating young plants called “pups”. It is common to find them growing in rocky terrain as shown in the photo. Agave parryiParry's Agave blooms from June to August throughout its entire range in North America. Elevation ranges from 4,500 to 8,000 feet (1,372 to 2,438 m). The sub-species shown in the photo is Agave parryi ssp. parryi, Parry's agave which is found in AZ, NM and TX. 
 Agave parryi

Scientific Name: Agave parryi
Common Name: Parry's Agave

Also Called: Century Plant, Parry's Century-Plant, Parry Agave

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

Synonyms: (Agave americana var. latifolia)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: 6 to 36 inches (15-86 cm) by 10 to 34 inches (25-85 cm) wide.

Growth Form: Forb/herb, shrub, sub-shrub; plants acaulescent, scapepose, plants compact, grows in rosettes

Leaves: Green, gray-green (glaucous-green), variable to light green; many leaves, leaves overlap each other (imbricate), about 4 to 26 inches (10-65 cm) long and 1.5 to 8 inches (4.5-20 cm ) wide, leaf shape variable depending on sub-species or cultivated species, lanceolate to broadly ovate, leaves thick, margins with sharp, claw-like teeth terminal spine.

Flower Color: Yellow, bright yellow to greenish-yellow, pink or red in bud; inflorescence a scape, without much if any fragrance; fruit a capsule oblong to obovate in shape; seeds black.

Flowering Season: June to August throughout its range in North America.

Elevation: 4,500 to 8,000 feet (1,372 to 2,438 m).

Habitat Preferences: High deserts, particularly in and on rocky soils and slopes in grasslands, chaparral, pine-oak woodlands; high deserts.

Recorded Range: Parry's Agave is found in the southwestern United States in AZ, NM and TX. It is also native to central and northern Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Agave parryi.

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 parryi and its' sub-species are listed by the State of Arizona as salvage restricted under ARS § 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.

There are 2 sub-species in Agave parryi;
Agave parryi ssp. neomexicana, Parry's Agave (NM, TX);
Agave parryi ssp. parryi, Parry's agave, (AZ, NM, TX).

There are 3 varieties in Agave parryi;
Agave parryi var. couesii, Parry's Agave, (Yavapai and Gila Counties, AZ)
Agave parryi var. huachucensis, Parry's Agave, (Huachuca Mountains, AZ)
Agave parryi var. truncata is endemic to Mexico, in the Durango/Zacatecas area, MX.

Comments: Parry's Agave is an attractive agave both in habitat and featured as a cultivated landscape specimen. The plants look dramatic as a strong rosette with rigid succulent dagger-like spin-tipped leaves. The plants spend their entire life developing a dramatic flowering stalk with beautiful yellow flowers. Interestingly the plants die soon after sprouting the flowering stalk. This species was used heavily by the Apache and other southwestern tribes as an important food staple, fiber, soap, tools, medicine for bartering purposes. Mescal, Pulque and tequila are derived from the juices of the native species.

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

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Parry’s Agave flowers are visited regularly by hummingbirds, nectar-feeding bats and insects in search of nectar.

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
Parry’s Agave flowers are visited by the following pollinators - Find out more from (BAMONA) Butterflies and Moths of North America.
Orange Giant-Skipper, Agathymus neumoegeni, Caterpillar Hosts: Parry\'s agave (Agave parryi).
Huachuca Giant-Skipper, Agathymus evansi, Caterpillar Hosts: Parry\'s agave (Agave parryi).

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.
The species epithet "parryi" is named in honor of Dr. Charles Christopher Parry (1823-1890), an English born American botanist and botanical collector.

Agave parryi is used for a multitude of purposes by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.
  • Apache Food, Dried Food, Heads and young leaves roasted, sun dried and used immediately or stored.
  • Apache, Chiricahua & Mescalero Food, Unspecified, Bulbous crowns baked in pits, pulpy centers released, pounded into thin sheets and eaten. The Mescalero Apache were named for the food they made from mescal. In the pits where the crowns were baked, the largest rock was placed in the center and a cross made on it from black ashes. While the mescal baked, the women were supposed to stay away from their husbands, and if the crown was not completely roasted when removed from the pit, they were believed to have disobeyed.
  • Apache, Western Food, Beverage, Juice fermented into a drink.
  • Apache, Western Other, Tools, Stalk fashioned into hoe handles.
  • Comanche Food, Staple, Used as one of the most important foods.
  • Mohave Food, Staple, Used as one of the most important foods.
  • Paiute Food, Staple, Used as one of the most important foods.
  • Papago Food, Staple, Used as one of the most important foods.
  • Pima Other, Cash Crop, Obtained by barter from the Papago Indians.
  • Ute Food, Staple, Used as one of the most important foods
  • Yuma Food, Staple, Used as one of the most important foods.

  • See complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 12/16/2019
    Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, Arizona Flora, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
    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).
    USDA, Agricultural Research Service,National Plant Germplasm System. 2019. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN-Taxonomy). National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. URL: Accessed 12 December 2019.
    USDA Department of Agriculture, Caring for the land and serving people: Plant of the Week, Parry’s Agave (Agave parryi). Accessed 12 December 2019. Missouri Botanical Garden. 12 Dec 2019 <> Accessed 12 December 2019.
    Northern Arizona University Accessed 12 December 2019.
    Hodgson, Wendy, Agavaceae Part 1: Agave - JANAS 32(1): 1-21. 1999. (W.Hodgson)(accessed 12/08/2019).
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet (accessed 12/09/2019). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    James L. Reveal & Wendy C. HodgsonFNA | FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Agavaceae | Agave; FNA Vol. 26 Page 445, 455, 456, 457; 19. Agave parryi Engelmann, Trans. Acad. Sci. St. Louis. 3: 311. 1875. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information, (accessed 10/09/2019).
    ETYMOLOGY: Michael L. Charters; California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology; (accessed 12/09/2019)