The family is Liliaceae (formerly Amaryllidaceae), but order (according to the Linnaean scheme) uses the suffix -ales, never -aceae. The order for Liliaceae is Liliales. Also, the species epithet (the second word in binomial nomenclature, redundant i know) is not capitalized. So the botanical name for the century plant should be A. americana. Also, as a rule species names and other taxonomic language is set apart from normal language by italics or capitalizing all the letters.

The century plant was so named because, like many other xeric plants, it grows slowly and flowers infrequently. This is why you won't see century plants dominating anything but the most extreme, xeric lands because they grow too slowly to compete with other plants.
Not to be confused with desert ephemerals which grow quickly, reproduce quickly, and die soon after.


The daughter of Cadmus king of Thebes, and his wife Harmonia. Her sisters were Ino, Semele and Autonoe. She married Echion and had a son Pentheus. After Semele had been killed by a thunderbolt after she rashly asked her lover Zeus to show her how powerful he could be, Agave spread a rumour that Semele had had a liaison with a mortal and that Zeus had punished her for having claimed that she was pregnant by him. Later Dionysus, Semele's son, avenged his mother and punished Agave grievously for her slander. When Dionysus returned to Thebes, where Agave's son Pentheus was then ruling, he ordered all the women in the town to assemble on the mountain of Cytheron to celebrate his mysteries. Pentheus, who was opposed to the introduction of the ritual, tried to spy upon the Bacchantes. He was glimpsed by Agave who took him for a wild beast and tore him limb for limb. When she had returned to her senses she fled terrified from Thebes to Illyria, to the presence of Lycotherses, the king of the country, whom she married. But later she killed him, to ensure that her father Cadmus should possess the kingdom.


Table of Sources:
- Hesiod, Theog. 975ff.
- Apollod. Bibl. 3, 4, 2f
- Diod. Sic. 4, 2, 1
- Pind. Ol. 2, 22ff. (38ff.)
- Euripides, Bacchae passim, esp. 1043ff.
- Ovid, Met. 3, 511ff.
- Hyg. Fab. 184; 240; 254
- Serv. on Virgil, Aen. 4, 469

A*ga"ve (#), n. [L. Agave, prop. name, fr. Gr. , fem. of illustrious, noble.] bot.

A genus of plants (order Amaryllidaceae) of which the chief species is the maguey or century plant (A. Americana), wrongly called Aloe. It is from ten to seventy years, according to climate, in attaining maturity, when it produces a gigantic flower stem, sometimes forty feet in height, and perishes. The fermented juice is the pulque of the Mexicans; distilled, it yields mescal. A strong thread and a tough paper are made from the leaves, and the wood has many uses.


© Webster 1913.

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