California Native Plant Society
Tap map to see plants native to location
Agave deserti
Please enter either the common name or the botanical name of any native California plant species to see it's plant record

Desert Agave
  • Added Add to My Plant List
Agave deserti

Zoom To My AddressZoom To California Estimated Plant Range

About Desert Agave (Agave deserti) Agave deserti (Desert Agave, Mescal, Century Plant or Maguey) is native to desert regions in southern California, Arizona, and Baja California. There are two recognized varieties in California. Var. deserti is found in the desert edge of the Peninsular Range. Var. simplex is found in the Mojave Desert. In both varieties it forms a rosette of fleshy gray-green leaves 20-70 centimeters long and 4.5-10 centimeters broad, with sharp spines along the edges and at the tips. It flowers at maturity (20-40 yrs), sending up an flower cluster 2-6 meters tall. The inflorescence grows extremely fast at this time, up to 1 ft. per day. The stems bear numerous yellow, funnel-shaped flowers 3-6 centimeters long which attract numerous birds and insects. Like other members of the Agavaceae, the mother plant dies after flowering, but numerous pups are produced around the base, sometimes forming large clonal rings. Native people ate the flowers and also roasted and ate the "heart" of rosettes that had just begun to send up a flower stalk.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Shrub, Perennial herb, Succulent

Max. Height
1 - 19.7 ft (0.3 - 6 m)

Max. Width
3 ft (0.9 m)

Growth Rate


Flower Color

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Rocky slopes, canyons, desert washes


Elevation ?
-42' - 6407'

Annual Precip. ?
2.6" - 25.6"

Summer Precip. ?
0.33" - 2.88"

Coldest Month ?
39.5° F - 59.0° F

Hottest Month ?
65.5° F - 88.0° F

Humidity ?
1.91 vpd - 38.83 vpd

Soil Description
Typically decomposed granite

Soil PH
7.0 - 8.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Sodic Soil


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 15° F

Sunset Zones ?
3, 7, 8*, 9*, 10*, 11, 12*, 13, 14*, 15, 16, 18, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22, 23

Wildlife Attracted
When in bloom, hummingbirds and other nectar-loving birds are attracted to the masses of flowers. This species is also host plant to the Bauer's Giant Skipper and California Giant Skipper butterflies.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low, Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist


Pest Control
Agaves are sometimes infested by a moth whose larva can kill the plant. However, Agave deserti is less often affected than other species such as Agave americana.

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment. Pups can be removed from the base of the mother plant (with caution) and relocated.

Common uses
Deer Resistant, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

Sign in to your Calscape Account X

Once signed in, you'll be able to access any previously saved plant lists or create new ones.

Email Address

Sign In

Copyright © 1999-2014 California Native Plant Society. All rights reserved.