Agave, a genus of plants of the order am-arylliclaceae, known as American aloes. The plant produces a circle of stiff, erect, fleshy leaves, often 7 to 10 inches long and 5 to 7 inches thick at the base, growing on the top of a short, woody trunk, bearing flowers in a long, terminal, woody spire. There are several species, but only one merits especial notice. The agave Americana, American aloe (called maguey in South America and mezcal in Mexico), has a short cylindrical stem, terminating in a circular cluster of hard, fleshy, spiny, sharp-pointed, bluish-green leaves, each of which lives for many years, so that but few have withered when the plant has arrived at its maturity. It is a popular error that this only occurs at the expiration of a hundred years, when the tree flowers, and again lies dormant, so far as its efflorescence is concerned, for another century. The American aloe varies in the period of its coming to maturity, according to the region in which it grows, from 10 to 70 years. In hot climates, otherwise favorable to its rapid development, it grows quickly, and early attains its perfect state. In colder countries, where it is cultivated as an exotic, it often requires the full period popularly assigned to it before it has attained its maturity.

So soon as it does so, it sends forth a stem 40 feet in height, which puts out numerous branches, forming a cylindrical pyramid of perfect symmetry, each crowned with a cluster of greenish-yellow flowers, which continue in perfect bloom for several months. But at whatever period of the plant's existence this occurs, it is never repeated; as soon as the flowers fall, the plant withers and dies. The natural habitat of the American aloe is the whole intertropical region of America, in which it flourishes from the sandy plains on the level of the sea to the table lands of the mountains, at a height of 9,000 to 10,000 feet. In England, the United States, and France, it is a tender greenhouse plant; but in Spain, Italy, Sicily, and the Barbary states, it is perfectly naturalized. - The American aloe is applied to many uses. From its sap, drawn from incisions in its stem, is made pulque, a fermented liquor highly esteemed by the Mexicans; and from that, again, is distilled an ardent and not disagreeable, although singularly deleterious spirit. known as vino mescal. A coarse sort of thread is made from the fibres of the leaves, known as the pita flax. The dried flower stems constitute a thatch which is perfectly impervious to the heaviest rain.

From an extract of the leaves balls are manufactured which can be made to lather with water like soap; and from the centre of the stem, split longitudinally, a substitute is obtained for a hone or razor strop, which, owing to the particles of silica which form one of its constituents, has the property of speedily bringing steel to a fine edge.

Agave (American Aloe).

Agave (American Aloe).