Agaves are perfectly at home at La Mortola, attaining their full size. Every year a number of interesting species throw up their tall infloresences. Only a few tropical species are liable to suffer during winter.
The foundation of the present collection was laid by a large contribution from Mr. W. Wilson Saunders, of Reigate, whose classical collection of these plants furnished much of the material for Prof. Baker's elaborate account of the genus. The first consignment was received in June 1868 ; it contained :- A. yuccaefolia, A. Saundersii, A. laxa, A. Cantala, A. Rumphii, A. angustifolia, A. stricta, A. Jacquiniana, A. elongata, and three unnamed plants. In spring, 1869, the following were received :- A. scabra, A. mitis, A. applanata, A. Bouchei, A. ferox, A. Ellemeetiana, A. filamentosa, A. lophantha, with several varieties of the last-named, and in 1870 A. Bouchei and A. xylonacantha.
Our knowledge of this interesting and beautiful genus is still very incomplete, and the confusion existing in books and gardens regarding their nomenclature is bewildering. Since Jacobi's [G.A. von Jacobi, «Versuch zu einer systematischen Ordnung der Agaveen,» in Hamburger Gartenzeitung, 1864-1867, and Abhandlungen der Schesischen Ges., Naturw. Abt. 1868-70.] and Baker's [J.G. Baker, «The Genus Agave» in Gardeners' Chronicle, 1877; reprinted in Baker's Handbook of the Amaryllidae. London, 1888.] works, the Agaves have not been comprehensively dealt with, and a new and up-to-date monograph is urgently wanted.
I am greatly indebted to Prof. Pax, Breslau, for the kind loan of General von Jacobi's drawings and photographs, which were of great help to clear up many doubtful or neglected species, and to Prof. Trelease, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, for help in naming several Agaves of our garden, as well as for many of his newly described species.
The names given here can, in some cases, only be considered as provisional. I hope to give before long a full account of the Agaves grown at la mortola.
With this species is generally united the closely allied Agave Salmiana. A. atrovirens has the leaves more contracted at the base and more acuminate, with very long and slender terminal spine ; their colour is an almost shining dark green, very different from the ashy green or grey of A. Salmiana. We also grow a narrow-leaved variety, and a variegated form, A. atrovirens marginata.
A very stately and ornamental plant. Though nearly related to A. Salmiana and A. atrovirens it presents sufficient characters to be considered a distinct species. It was first given to La Mortola by Mr. W. Wilson Saunders in April, 1869.
Next to A. Salmiana the tallest species, with beautiful greyish white or bluish leaves, and called by Prof. Baker "The Prince of the Agaves." It was introduced at La Mortola about 1878, and flowered for the first time in 1889. [11 years to reach flowering size]
This species has leaves with fibrous margins. See also note under A. Knightiana.
Agave ingens (nom. nov.) [Agave picta]
Agave mortolensis Berger
Agave rigida Hort. (A. elongata)
Though somewhat variable, this plant is generally larger than A. atrovirens, and always recognisable by its ashy-grey leaves, which are generally few in a rosette, and very thick and broad at their base ; the end-spine is stouter than in A. atrovirens. We have several forms and a narrow-leaved variety. A. Salmiana and A. atrovirens are much cultivated in Mexico for "pulque."
This is the plant so valued and cultivated on a large scale in many tropical countries for its strong fibre, the "Sisal Hemp." It is not a variety of A. rigida nor of A. elongata, but a distinct species. It succeeds perfectly well at La Mortola, and is easily propagated by the many hundreds of bulbils, which each plant throws out after having flowered.
Agave Victoria-Reginae var. laxior
Agave xylonacantha v. mediopicta
Enumeratio plantarum in Horto Mortolensi cultarum
Alwin Berger - curator of the garden
From NOTES pp.356-365