Queen Victoria

As a tennis enthusiast, I was checking the current standings of the Sony Ericsson Open.  The latest news was that Azarenka had beaten Sharapova in straight sets to win the women's crown, her second Miami title in 3 years. 

Screen capture of Tennis on Yahoo! Sports

 Screen capture from Live Tennis Online

While reading these headlines, I suddenly got the idea to feature one of my plants which was named after the real Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Queen Victoria  (1818-1901), queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India, is the longest reigning British monarch and also the longest reigning female monarch (63 years and 216 days!).  

She appears to have been admired by botanists.  While doing research, I found a number of plants named after the late queen, not to mention a genus of water lilies.   

My plant, which was so named by Thomas Moore in her honor, is an incredible agave, the Agave Victoriae-reginae, more commonly known as:

- the Queen of Agaves

- Queen's Agave and

- Queen Victoria Agave (of course!).

 

According to the book "Agaves Yuccas and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide" by Mary and Gary Irish, synonyms include Agave consideranti Carrière, Agave ferdinandi-regis Berger and Agave nichelsii R. Gosselin.

This agave is native to the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains in Mexico where it is also known as "Noa".

Its leaves are stout, rigid and trigonous.  They are green to dark green with beautiful white markings along the leaf margins and on the broad surfaces.  The edges are not serrated but at the tip of each leaf is a sharp dark-colored spine. 

The leaves grow in a compact rosette that has a globular shape.

It usually blooms in summer after a long life cycle (20 to 30 years).  The flowers have different colors but are described as cream and purplish red.  The inflorescence is in the form of a stalk that can go up to 4 meters high.  You can see an amazing example of this on The Lovely Plants, the blog of Aleem.  I strongly suggest you check out the picture.

The plant is monocarpic, dying after its flowering period, but it also readily reproduces by seed and by pups.  I have been able to separate four pups from this specimen.

It is highly variable in form.  Most of its forms are individually documented by the Succulent Nursery of Cok and Ine Grootscholten in their Agave Collection album.  (See pictures #318-348 and #354-366.)  The variegated form has just gone on my must-chase list.

Recognized by some as one of its more prominent "forms" is the Agave ferdinandi-regis which has longer, dark green leaves and a more open rosette.

Named after royalty as well, King Ferdinand's agave has a confusing history.  As I mentioned earlier, it is listed as a synonym to the A. victoriae-reginae.  Gentry had spelled it as A. fernandi-regis but it had been described previously by Berger as A. ferdinandi-regis.  A form or a separate species?  I really can't tell from the differences in opinion.  What is certain is that it is King to the Queen of Agaves.

Because the A. victoriae-reginae has been a favored ornamental plant, over collection of specimens compounded by loss of habitat has severely affected and limited its populations in the wild.  Mexico now considers it a rare species and has designated the species as Peligro de extincion or "Danger of Extinction".  It is also listed under CITES Appendix II.  In spite of the status of wild specimens, this species is quite common in cultivation and has been repeatedly and successfully propagated.

The A. victoriae-reginae has one of the longer life spans of the Agavaceae family although not as long as Queen Victoria's reign.

Long live my Queen!

 

 

 

 

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