Furcraea longaeva - A large succulent plant from southern Mexico with long pliable blue-green leaves at the top of 4 to 15+ foot tall trunks. The rigid-looking yet flexible 5 to 5 foot long bluish-green leaves are at first erect then droop down and finally remain hanging on the trunk as a skirt but are sometimes skinned up by gardeners to be bare. When the plant reaches maturity, it blooms, typically in late summer, with flowers on an erect branched inflorescence that can reach to 25 feet above the foliage, but more commonly rises 12 to 15 feet and has horizontal branch tips. This plant is monocarpic and declines after flowering, which may happen as young as 15 years old or 3 times this age. After the flowers fade this species does not produce the bulbils like Furcraea bedinghausii, which we also grow.
Plant in full to part sun or light shade where it requires very little irrigation. We don't know the hardiness of this species and feel that given it was first collected at an altitude of 10,000, it is likely to be hardy at least for short durations below freezing. This Furcraea is very attractive and when large becomes a sculptural element in the garden. With its soft pliable leaves, it is also a much friendlier succulent than many similar looking Agave and Yucca plants.
Furcraea longaeva was first discovered growing at 10,000 feet in 1829 on Mount Tanga in Oaxaca, Mexico. It inhabits sunny clearings and rocky locations from 6,000 and 9,000 feet in pine-oak habitats along the Pacific Ocean drainage slopes in Oaxaca. The name Furcraea was given to this genus in 1793 by the French botanist Etienne Pierre Ventenat (1757–1808) to honor French chemist and politician, Antoine F de Fourcroy (1755-1809), who was the Director of the Jadin des Plantes in Paris and the specific epithet means of "long-lived", liky in reference to the long time it takes to reach flowering age.
This species was first imported into Messrs Loddiges’ nursery in England in 1838 and the flowered in the conservatory of the Regent’s Park Botanic Garden in 1864 but remains relatively rare in cultivation. The fact that this species has longer greener less glaucus leaves, has horizontal inflorescence branch tips and does not produce bulbils distinguishes it from the otherwise similar looking Furcraea bedinghausii, which we have long grown and is more common in cultivation. We believe that most plants offered as Furcraea longaeva have been grown from bulbils and are in fact more likely to be Furcraea bedinghausii than Furcraea longaeva. Our plants grown from seed purchased from RarePalms.com and pictures of this species on this page taken by Randy Baldwin in habitat south of Benito Juarez Oaxaca in 2015.
Information about Furcraea longaeva displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.