Insignificant

This post is about insignificance and why the insignificant can sometimes be significant. Confusing right? Please proceed at your own risk.

"Parviflora" is a combination of two Latin words, parvus meaning insignificant, and florus meaning flower.  

There are several parviflora species, indicating that their flowers are small and insignificant.  One of these species is the Agaveparviflora, originally from northern Mexico and Arizona.  

The A. parviflora is also commonly known as the:

  • "small flower agave" (obviously)
  • "Little Princess Agave"
  • "Santa Cruz striped agave"
  • "small flower century plant"

Not only are its flowers small, the plant is relatively small as well, growing to approximately 25 cm in both height and width.  Its leaves are up to 20 cm long and 2 cm wide.  They are a dark shade of green with beautiful white markings.  The tiny white spots form because of pressure from the growing leaves at the center of the rosette formation.  

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The leaf margins are also white.  Most noticeable about the leaves' margins are its curly white hairs. I find it unusual for plants to exhibit curly white hairs. 

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The A. parviflora is relatively easy to grow, requiring only full sun and well-draining soil. My A. parviflora gets direct sunlight for at least six hours a day from morning to early afternoon. I feed it with an all purpose fertilizer every three months. It has responded very well to this kind of cultivation as it has already produced three offsets though I had to give up the biggest one as a favor for a friend. Actually, a friend of my wife so I couldn't really say no. The curls are getting longer and more profuse and I'm already considering including a quarterly salon visit as part of it's care. 

The plant offsets freely and flowers between 10 to 15 years.  Unfortunately, it is another of my monocarpic plants.  Monocarpic, meaning it flowers once, produces seeds and then dies.

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Its inflorescence is supposed to be about 1 to 2 meters tall and composed of clusters of small yellow or cream flowers. This part of my readings about the plant made me pause.  There is one other species of agave that is almost indistinguishable from the A. parviflora and that is the A. polianthiflora.  The two can only be distinguished by their flowers, the A. polianthiflora has a bigger red or pink flower while the A. parviflora has a small pale yellow or cream flower. This is the very reason why the A. parviflora's "insignificant" flowers become significant.

If there is another thing about the A. parviflora that is not insignificant, it would be its spines. I have been punctured by its spines time and again while handling the plant. My fault, because i don't like wearing gardening gloves.  Notice the weeds growing around the plant.  I am loathe to pull them out because it is difficult to do so without hurting myself.  The pain of being punctured by an agave, especially when the spine breaks off and is left embedded in your skin is truly significant.

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Lastly, and once again, the Agaveparviflora is not as insignificant as its name implies.  Unfortunately, this species is threatened in the wild by loss of habitat.  This is doubly significant because the plant has a very slow growth rate and low population.  There are approximately two dozen documented populations left in Arizona and Mexico.  In fact, the plant is listed under Category 2 of the Endangered Species Act making it a "species of concern".  It is also listed in CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) which is an agreement between governments to ensure that trade does not threaten the survival of wild species.  As of the October 2010 CITES listing, it is under Appendix I which is a list of the most endangered CITES-identified species of plants and animals.  These are species threatened with extinction and international trade is prohibited and only allowed under special circumstances where both the exporting and importing governments issue authorization permits.

The conservation of the Agaveparviflora is important because the loss of this plant with insignificant flowers will certainly be significant.

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