ISI 2014-9. Agave attenuata 'Coachwhip'

Agave attenuata is widely grown in relatively frost free climates such as coastal southern California from Santa Barbara to San Diego. It is appreciated for its elegantly simple form and harmless, flexible leaves lacking spines. The typical form has light green foliage and a gracefully arching inflorescence. As this form offsets readily and produces prodigious numbers of bulbils on the inflorescence after flowering, virtually all in cultivation are this same genetic clone. A Huntington expedition to Jalisco, Mexico in 1970 introduced a distinctive form of A. attenuata differing from the typical in its more solitary rosettes of glaucous, bluish leaves and its straight, erect inflorescence. This form has come to be available in cultivation as A. attenuata 'Nova' or A. attenuata 'Boutin Blue' after Fred Boutin who was Huntington botanist at the time. The simultaneous flowering in 1995 of both forms provided the opportunity to create a hybrid that might yield a plant combining the best features of the two, i.e. the glaucous rosettes with the arching inflorescence. It only took 17 years for this hope to be realized and of the 75 clones planted out only two have flowered so far but one of these definitely merits introduction. The rosettes are composed of broad leaves dusted with the waxy cuticle that imparts the glaucous blue cast. Though the young inflorescence was damaged by frost in December, 2012, it gradually became apparent that this individual had inherited the arching quality. In addition, the pale bracts at the base of the inflorescence are exceptionally broad and deltoid and are spaced along the green peduncle in a beautiful spiraling symmetry. Rooted bulbils of HBG 120194, $8.

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Photo © 2014 by John N. Trager. Images may not be used elsewhere without permission.

Published in the Cactus and Succulent Journal, Vol. 86 (2), March - April, 2014