It's a Succulent, Not a Cactus

Agave parryi var. huachecensis. ©Lee Anne White.

Agave parryi var. huachecensis. ©Lee Anne White.

I've never met an agave I didn't like, though I've learned the hard way to treat them with respect. Those spines are mean. They not only hurt when you have an accidental encounter with them, they can irritate your skin. Beyond that, I really love agaves (and not just because they are the source of tequila). What compels me about them is the way one leaf imprints upon another. They start life as tight balls and slowly open up, revealing the imprints of adjacent leaves. 

This one is an Agave parryi var. huachucensis (commonly called Parry's agave or mescal agave). It grows in rosette fashion up to 2 1/2 feet in diameter and is considered a good landscape plant in dry climates such as its native home in New Mexico, Arizona and parts of Mexico. This agave, by the way, is not the source of tequilla; that would be Agave tequilana, also known as the blue agave. And for the record, an agave is a succulent, not a cactus. A cactus is a different kind of succulent.