Other names: American Aloe, American Century Plant, Century Plant
Synonyms: Agave altissima, Agave americana f. picta, Agave americana f. virginica, Agave americana var. marginata, Agave americana var. mediopicta, Agave americana var. picta, Agave americana var. striata, Agave americana var. subtilis, Agave americana var. theometel, Agave americana var. variegata, Agave communis, Agave complicata, Agave cordillerensis, Agave felina, Agave fuerstenbergii, Agave gracilispina, Agave ingens, Agave melliflua, Agave milleri, Agave ornata, Agave picta, Agave ramosa, Agave rasconensis, Agave salmiana var. gracilispina, Agave subtilis, Agave subzonata, Agave theometel, Agave virginica, Agave zonata
Agave americana, common names sentry plant, century plant, maguey, or American aloe, is a species of flowering plant in the family Agavaceae, native to Mexico, and the United States in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Today, it is cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant. It has become naturalized in many regions, including the West Indies, parts of South America, the southern Mediterranean Basin, and parts of Africa, India, China, Thailand, and Australia.
If the flower stem is cut without flowering, a sweet liquid called aguamiel ("honey water") gathers in the heart of the plant. This may be fermented to produce the drink called pulque. The leaves also yield fibers, known as pita, which are suitable for making rope, matting, or coarse cloth, and are used for embroidery of leather in a technique known as piteado. Both pulque and maguey fiber were important to the economy of pre-Columbian Mexico.
In the tequila-producing regions of Mexico, agaves are called mezcales. The high-alcohol product of agave distillation is called mezcal; A. americana is one of several agaves used for distillation. A mezcal called tequila is produced from Agave tequilana, commonly called "blue agave". The many different types of mezcal include some which may be flavored with the very pungent mezcal worm. Mezcal and tequila, although also produced from agave plants, are different from pulque in their technique for extracting the sugars from the heart of the plant, and in that they are distilled spirits. In mezcal and tequila production, the sugars are extracted from the piñas (or hearts) by heating them in ovens, rather than by collecting aguamiel from the plant's cut stalk. Thus, if one were to distill pulque, it would not be a form of mezcal, but rather a different drink.
Agave nectar is marketed as a natural form of sugar with a low glycemic index that is due to its high fructose content.