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Home > Products > Succulents > Agave Page > Agave sebastiana

  Agave sebastiana
Agave hybrid
Agave sebastiana on West San Benito Island, Baja California.
In March 1990 San Marcos Growers General Manager Randy Baldwin joined a natural history and botanical expedition to San Ignacio Lagoon and the islands off the north west coast of Baja California. This trip was jointly sponsored by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. On this trip the group visited West San Benito Island, San Ignacio Lagoon, Cedros Island, San Martin Island and Todos Santos Island. One of the most outstanding plants that were noted on this trip was Agave sebastiana. There were beautiful clumps of Agave sebastiana on Cedros Island where they often grew in association with the stately Elephant Tree (Pachycormus discolor). Agave sebastiana was also found in several canyons on West San Benito Island.
Agave hybrid
Agave sebastiana on West San Benito Island, Baja California.
Agave hybrid
Canyon with Agave sebastiana on West San Benito Island, Baja California.
On West San Benito Island there were several Agave sebastiana that had flowered and set seed the prior year. From one of these plants was collected very mature fruit capsules which yielded a small amount of viable seed. From this seed San Marcos Growers was able to grow a small crop of 17 plants. All of these plants were sold except for one plant, Agave sebastiana SMG90, that the nursery kept in its collection.

Agave hybrid
Agave sebastiana SMG90 in San Marcos Growers Collection

In a post on the Yahoo Agaveforum list, Ed Green speculated that a mystery Agave in a Santa Barbara garden and described on the "Mystery Agave" Page on our website was possibly Agave sebastiana. This is certainly a plausible identification and one that also fit with observations that the "Mystery Agave" resembled Agave shawii, a close relative of Agave sebastiana. Ironically, if this plant is Agave sebastiana, it may have been from seed that was collected on the 1990 Baja trip, as one of the plants from this trip ended up in the same Santa Barbara garden where the "Mystery Agave" resides. After Ed's post to the AgaveForumn the pictures taken on the Baja Island trip were reviewed and the similarities between the plants on West San Benito Island and the "Mystery Agave" were noted.

In addition, a comparison of Agave sebastiana in other collections was made. From these observations it seems that there is either considerable variability in this species, or there are a number of plants that have been misidentified. While visiting Tree of Life Nursery in May 2005 I noted a beautiful Agave planted near the nursery entrance. I was told that the plant was Agave sebastiana and that the seed had been collected on Cedros Island by either the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden or Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. The Tree of Life Agave sebastiana resembles the mystery plant in form with broad leaves but it is considerably greener.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is dedicated to plants native to California and as the islands and northern section of Baja California are considered part of the California floristic province, it is natural that the garden have plants of Agave sabastiana in its collection. There was a nice clump labeled Agave sebastiana SBBG91-392 located just north of the main meadow. This plant comes from a collection made by David Verity at Punta Eugenia, which is on the mainland just east of Cedros Island. This clump has since been divided and replanted within the adjacent Dudleya collection along with several Agave margaretae (SBBG 91-128-2). Another Agave sabastiana accession at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is Agave sebastiana SBBG77.109 This plant was from seed collected by Michael Benedict on West San Benito Island in 1977. A larger Agave sebastiana in the Island Section of the garden (just west of Mission Creek) has broader leaves and looks more like the "Mystery Agave". This plant has either lost its accession tag or, more likely, grown over the tag, which will only be found when the plant flowers and dies back. The leaves in the crown of this plant are elongating and lack the spines on their margins so if would appear that flowering in not long off. The bright yellow flowers would be a stunning addition to the garden as evidenced by this image of Agave sebastiana flowering that Steve Junak, Herbarium Director at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, shared with us.