Continental Ranch works to save agave plants - Tucson Local Media: News

Continental Ranch works to save agave plants

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Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 4:00 am

The Continental Ranch Homeowners Association (HOA) has been able to turn a negative into a positive. When many of their agave plants were infested with agave snout weevils, the HOA found a way to repurpose one type of plant.

Agave snout weevils or agave borer weevils attack agave plants, boring holes on the plant and leaving a bacterial secretion in the holes which begins a rotting process in the plant. The weevils then lay their eggs in the holes and when they hatch, the babies eat the rotten part of the plant. Generally a plant infested with weevils does not survive. 

Rob Palfreyman and the rest of the landscape committee discovered that many of the agave plants around Continental Ranch had been attacked by the insects, but Josh Seng of the Continental Ranch Community Association noticed the octopus agaves that they planted did not get attacked by the pests. 

When the octopus agaves flower they send up a stalk that has a number of golden flowers but also have seed capsules and bulbis or “pups”. These pups are basically baby plants. 

The downside of the octopus agave, and all other agaves, is that they die after flowering, so the landscape committee had the idea of taking the pups and replanting them.

“Someone on the committee, I wish I could say it was me, had the idea that we should harvest them,” Palfreyman said, “We wanted a way to give back to the community.”

Palfreyman is also the owner of Pima Valley Greenhouse, so he volunteered to replant the baby plants. They did not take all of them, there were several thousand, but did take around 600 plants, of which they will replant as many as they can, which he suspects will be 50-60.

“We will return as many as we can to the community,” Palfreyman said. The rest will be sold, so that none of the harvested plants goes to waste.”

After harvesting the pups, Palfreyman then planted them in clay pots which are cared for at the nursery. They still need to mature some more, but they hope to re-plant them this fall when they get a little older and the weather cools down a bit.

“You don’t want to attempt to plant them in the summer heat,” Palfreyman said. 

Palfreyman is caring for the agaves free of charge, seeing it as his way of giving back to the community. The fact that they will not have to purchase new plants will also save the community quite a bit of money and because this particular agave does not get attacked by the weevils, it essentially saves the community even more money. 

“It is a sustainability effort,” said Seng. Seng hoped the cost to replant the pups would be less than the cost of a new plant, but even if it is not a huge savings it is a re-purposing of available resources. 

The octopus agaves are not necessarily the “most desirable” agaves, they have a shorter lifespan and have drooping leaves that somewhat resemble an octopus’ tentacles, but they are hardy and according to Palfreyman, “are real easy to propagate.” Continental Ranch has several different topes of agaves around the area, including the popular Americana type, but with the weevil issues right now the octopus agave may be the best option.

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