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Agave (palmeri)

Allegra Mount
Seed Lab Manager
Borderlands Restoration
PO Box 1191
Patagonia, Arizona 85624

Family Scientific Name: Agavaceae
Family Common Name: Century Plant Family
Scientific Name: Agave palmeri Engelm.
Common Name: Palmer’s agave
Ecotype: Madrean Archipelago
General Distribution: A. palmeri is found in southern Arizona and New Mexico and northern Mexico, often on rocky, steep south-facing slopes and grassy plains, 900-2000m (Flora of North America Editorial Committee 1993+). Its primary pollinator is the lesser long-nosed bat, although other nectar-feeding bats, sphynx moths and carpenter bees are occasional pollinators as well (Slauson 2000). It reproduces both by seed and vegetatively through rhizomatous clones or “pups”, and hybridizes with A. chrysantha in Arizona (Flora of North America Editorial Committee 1993+).
Propagation Goal: Plants
Propagation Method: Seed
ProductType: Container (plug)
Propagule Collection: The most effective method used by the manual authors involves an apparatus specially designed for agave seed collection The apparatus is simply a long, extendable pole with a wide-mouth bucket attached to one end. The bucket is attached by its handle and should be able to move freely on the end of the pole.
Select individuals that have flowered the same year as collection, as those from previous years will not have much seed remaining. Seed collection should take place in late November-December, when seed pods have split open but not yet lost all their seed. To test if an agave has seed, lightly shake the stalk and listen for seed rattling in the pods.
To collect agave seed, extend the bucket end of the pole into the air and place it adjacent to a cluster of pods or, if possible, feed the branch and pods partially or completely into the bucket. Tap the agave branch with the bucket and/or pole using a shaking/jabbing motion for 5-10 seconds to release the seeds from the pods into the bucket. It is normal for many seeds to fall outside the bucket (>50% even) so don’t be discouraged by this! Remove the bucket and repeat with another branch. Empty the bucket every 1-2 plants into a separate bucket or bag to prevent seed loss while collecting .
Propagule Processing: Cleaning is relatively easy. There may be several larger pieces of pod debris and these can be picked out by hand. There may also be some unopened pods. These can be cracked open by hand or with a nut cracker. White, undeveloped seeds are lighter in weight than the viable dark seeds. Air winnow the seeds with a blow drier on low to remove the majority of the white seed. Your cleaned collection should consist primarily of black seed. Orthodox storage is assumed.
Establishment Phase: The Borderlands Restoration Nursery reports germination rates of 6-77%. Good seed readily germinates with moist media across a range of temperatures. Further germination experiments are recommended. Little information exists about germination requirements for this species in a nursery setting.
References: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 20+ vols. New York and Oxford, 1993+.

Slauson, Liz A. "Pollination biology of two chiropterophilous agaves in Arizona." American Journal of Botany 87.6 (2000): 825-836.

Borderlands Restoration Network (2018). BRN Native Plant Materials Program Database. Unpublished Raw Data.


Allen-Cantú, Juniper; Claverie, Francesca; McNelis, Perin; Mount, Allegra. 2018. Propagation protocol for production of Container (plug) Agave palmeri Engelm. Plants Borderlands Restoration Patagonia, Arizona. In: Native Plant Network. URL: http://NativePlantNetwork.org (accessed 2021/07/27). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, National Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources.

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