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  Agave potatorum
(Syn: Agave verschaffeltii)

Cultivation and Mail Sale
of Cacti and Succulents.

Agave potatorum (Locality: Nativitas)
This species is  highly variable in form, size and colour and many varieties have been described.
Some are very small (called Butterfly Agave and highly prized in Japan) and others medium or large sized.
Most of them grow very symmetrically, staying smaller in containers.

A. potatorum (Locality Cameron)

A. potatorum (Locality Cameron)

A. potatorum (Locality Tlayiaco)

A. potatorum (Locality Tlayiaco)

Agave potatorum (Locality: Nativitas)

A. potatorum "compact form"

Plant with sinuous leaf margins and with teeth atop of outward-projecting bumps are often called by the old name of Agave verschaffeltii.



Family: Agavaceae

Scientific Name: Agave potatorum Zucc.
In:  Act. Acad. Caes. Leop. Carol. 16': 675. 1833.


  • Agave potatorum var. verschaffeltii (Lemaire ex Jacobi ) A. Berger 1915

  • Agave scolymus Karwinsky

  • Agave saudersii J.Hooker

  • Agave verschaffletii

Origin: Mexico, occurs from southern Pueblo state down to central Oaxaca and Chiapas, and is quite variable.

Habitat: Semi-arid highlands between 1200 and 2250 m

Etymology: The specific name "potatorum" has nothing to do with potatoes, it comes from the genitive of the Latin word "potator" meaning 'of the drinkers' in reference to the use of this plant in making alcoholic beverages.

Agave potatorum is included in the group Hiemiflorae. As a general rule, plants in this group have relatively short lateral branches on the inflorescence and tight ball-like clusters of flowers. They typically are winter-flowering, although Agave potatorum is a little earlier than most, with a September-to-December peak flowering time.

A. potatorum "compact form" this is the more frequently seen form in cultivation, particularly priced for its small size. The leaves have distinct showy bud-imprints.



Description: A. potatorum is a small Agave, growing solitary or slowly clumping, that forms an compact to open symmetrical succulent rosette. It is a very polymorphic species with a large range of variability and the size of the plant from different population and the clones on the market are quite variable and may be anywhere between 10 and 90 cm in diameter when fully grown-up.
Stem: Usually stemless or very short stemmed.
Leaves: 30 to 80 per rosette, softly fleshy but rather rigid, thickened and narrowed toward the base, ovate, oblong, or short lanceolate, but very variable in shape, size and colour. They are mostly 9-18 cm broad and 20-40 cm long and green, blue-grey to light silvery-grey. They are slightly deflexed back near the tips that terminate in a distinctive, often twisted or slightly wavy, reddish, dark brown spine up to 2,5 long. The short marginal spines are often on pronounced tubercle-like prominences often dramatically so, with distinct teats. The teeth are usually rusty or yellowish coloured 0,6 to 1,3 mm long, 0,5 to2,5 cm apart. The leaves also have noticeable showy bud-imprints.
Flowers: The long spikes may by either a raceme or a panicle and rise up to 3 to 6 m bearing light green flowers tinged with red and subtended with red bracts.

Cultivation: Agave potatorum  is a relatively easy-to-grow species, though not as cold-hardy as many of the more northerly-occurring species (Winter hardy to around -3° C degrees). Suited for light shade to full sun, but better with some shade in summer.  It needs  a very well-drained, soil.   It  grows fairly fast in summer if provided with copious water, but allow to dry thoroughly before watering again (the more water and fertilizer this plant gets, the faster it will grow). During the winter months, one should only water enough to keep the leaves from shrivelling.
It does great in containers or in the ground. Plants cultivated outdoors are more drought tolerant and can take some heat and full sun.  Remove eventual suckers to show the beauty and form of the individual rosette.

Propagation: By seeds or by suckers that are found growing around the base of the plant, however this species rarely offsets many plants after maturing,. This begins to occur when they are as young as 10 years old. They will flower (usually during the autumn) and the entire plant declines and dies.  But many of the clones actually in cultivation are more prolific, and suckers are readily available. The basal suckers can be removed in spring or summer, letting the cuttings dry for a few days before inserting in compost.


Agave potatorum is is used in Mexico for making "pulque” the Mexican wine. In Sonora (Mexico) the hearts (central part of the rosettes and base of leaves) are placed in subterranean ovens and the resulting fermented juice is distilled to make a a spirit called Bacanora.

Photo of conspecific taxa, varieties, forms and cultivars of Agave potatorum:

Photo gallery: Alphabetical listing of Cactus and Succulent pictures published in this site.

Photo gallery Agave

Home | E-mail | Plant files | Mail Sale Catalogue | Links | Information | Search

All the information and photos in cactus art files are now available also in the new the Encyclopaedia of Succulents. We hope you find this new site informative and useful.