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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/213

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THE CENTURY PLANT

Perhaps the most curious thing that I can say of the real Agave Americana is that nobody knows to-day where to seek it as a spontaneous plant, and, except about the Mediterranean, where it has spread extensively, it seems to be found only as an obvious local escape from cultivation. It looks very much as if the Spanish conquerors took home, as one of their first illustrations of the maguey, a decorative rather than a much-used plant, which even then probably existed only in cultivation.

The traveler through that wonderfully interesting dry region to the southwest of us, the Mexican tableland, has his attention attracted by many of these candelabrum-bearing agaves. Even before reaching Laredo, if he go by that gateway into the neighboring republic,

PSM V70 D213 Oddly called bamboo.png

Fig. 1. Oddly called Bamboo.

he may see one large species, A. asperrima. If he enter by way of El Paso from the east, another, A. Parryi, may draw his notice, or, coming from the west, he may have seen another, A. Palmeri; and toward Nogales, the entrance point for Sonora, one of the most striking of them, with almost globose clusters of leaves, A. Huachucensis, is visible from the train.

One of the most effective of these landscape-making plants covers certain mountain-sides near Tehuacan, a health resort which every visitor to Oaxaca and the wonderful ruins of Mitla passes through after leaving Puebla. Its stately panicles are of a brilliant yellow, and more beautiful than those of the ordinary century plant; and its great rough leaves are so marbled with alternating greener and grayer cross bands that it has received the distinctive name A. marmorata.