Friday, September 18, 2015

LET THIS BE A LESSON

Two of my favorite views of my whale's tongue agave, Agave ovatifolia, are looking through the side gate into the front garden.


And the view from the upper gravel area. From both angles it is such a huge focal point.


But something was wrong. Black patches were beginning to appear deep in the heart of the plant. It could only mean one thing. Rot. The cause could be one of two things. The dreaded agave weevil or poor drainage.

Agave snout weevil
We lost an agave outside the garden to these devils last year. Fortunately we were alerted to the problem by some creature rooting for grubs underneath the plant so we were able to capture many adults and grubs. Hopefully this was not the problem here.
There is no easy way to remove such a large agave. First I cut the tips of the leaves. More damaging than the tip spines are the curved spines along the leaf margins. Nothing to be done there. I began by taking the saw and sawing through the more open leaves. That went well and in no time I had the majority cut down. What a ragged mess.


Then I began to notice that my legs were stinging. Of course I was wearing shorts. Then a light went on in my brain. I recalled someone referring to the sap of agaves being highly allergenic. I downed tools, rushed through the house tearing off my clothes an jumped in the pool. Then I got out the hydrocortisone cream. The stinging began to subside. The job ended there because I had to leave for the afternoon. When I came home the stump was removed and the area tidied up. Thank you David. He assured me there was no evidence of weevils and that the ground was surprisingly dry. This damage must have started a long time ago and progressed rapidly with our rainy fall and June.
Quickly moving on; this morning I planted a new Whale's Tongue but added lots of granite and mounded the area tilting the agave to the front so that any water will drain away from the crown.


I hunted for a few rocks to help camouflage the mound and have plans to add some blackfoot daisies to soften the whole area.
And the lesson is to wear long pants, longs sleeves, gloves and goggles when dealing with agaves.

12 comments:

  1. Agaves are so striking but wow - they pack a lot of offensive capability. Good work on David's part getting that heavy stump out of the ground - it must have weighed a ton even after all your trimming. Here's hoping your stingy bits subside pronto.

    I suppose it is the size but your new ovatifolia is extra adorable with those curvy leaves. It looks almost...sweet. So deceptive! (Agave 1 - Jenny 1 - all tied up so far!).

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    1. PS: "I downed tools, rushed through the house tearing off my clothes and jumped in the pool." THAT is why we don't build pools in the front yard! : )

      I'm out to dig out several agave this AM and will most definitely be wearing pants/boots, (no shorts), and a long sleeved shirt. Thanks for the warning!

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  2. Too bad you had to remove the agave. Would it have eventually rotted away if you left it alone?

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    1. Yes, it would Michael. I needed to be sure it wasn't the weevil because I didn't want them getting into my other agaves.






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    2. Jenny, that was me that had the similar experience when I removed and agave Americana. I had a huge reaction because I didn't realize what was happening at first, and overdid it in my typical manner. I used the topical cream as well as had to take a Benadryl. Nasty things!

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    3. I couldn't remember who it was, Robin. Thanks for jogging the memory.

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  3. I didn't know that about agave sap. Thanks for the heads up, although now I'm wondering if El Nino could leave me with a bunch of decaying agaves.

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    1. I think the roots of my plant just got into some poor drainage area and the rot started there. That agave lasted 5 years.

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  4. Oh, that is too bad about losing such a striking agave! I hope your new one loves the now nicely draining spot and grows quickly! I had no idea agave sap produced such a reaction. I hope it subsides quickly for you!

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    1. Yes, there is lots out there about these allergens. Thank goodness I am not allergic to tequila-or will I be now.

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  5. I remember below two once-thriving Hesperaloe funifera, when each died, were a few of those weevils. At first I thought is was something else, but nope. Ugh, that's some work, agaves are heavy!

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