ISI 2003-12. Agave polianthiflora Gentry

Often seen misspelled (even in Gentry’s index!), this species is named after the related genus Polianthes, not because it has many flowers as implied by the misspelled epithet “polyanthiflora”. Rather, the Greek root polia- means gray and refers to the drab flower color of some species in that genus. The dwarf A. polianthiflora is barely distinguishable in its vegetative state from A. parviflora. Both produce compact spherical rosettes rarely more than 6" in diameter. The leaves are dark green ornamented with white bud-imprints resembling stripes of paint and bear recurved marginal fibers. Flowers clearly distinguish the two look-alikes. Those of A. polianthiflora are considerably showier, more than a inch long, tubular and usually dusky red. Gentry comments that were it not for the agavoid leaves and exserted filaments this species would be classified as a Polianthes as the epithet implies. “Albino” forms with creamy yellow flowers are known in hues reminiscent of the color range found in another Agavaceous species, Hesperaloe parviflora. The parent of our self-pollinated seedlings is yet another variant, with orange flowers. Time will tell how dominant this allele is in the progeny. From seed of HBG 89166, a plant collected by the late succulent enthusiast Louise Lippold (# 79-28), of Connecticut. She collected it as A. parviflora on Sept. 18, 1979, in the Cumbres de Majalca, Chihuahua, Mexico. Seedlings show some variation in amount of fibers and markings. $6.50.

flowers, close

Photo © 2003 by John N. Trager. Images may not be used elsewhere without permission.

Published in the Cactus and Succulent Journal, Vol. 75 (2), March - April, 2003