The Agave Americana (aka “Century Plant” or “Maguey” en Español) is a native to the Southwestern U.S. as well as northern Mexico. The plant is big — 6 to 9 feet (2 to 3 meters) across and equally tall.
Its thick blue leaves are trimmed with spikes making it a safe home for ground squirrels, quail, and a variety of snakes and lizards.
The plant matures in 8 – 10 years, producing a gigantic flower that shoots 25 to 30 feet (8 to 10 meters) in the air. (If you’re making tequila, you’ll want to harvest the plant right before it flowers). Once the flower dries, it’s a favorite for acorn woodpeckers who will hollow out the trunk and use it for both nesting and food storage.
A colony of woodpeckers have turned the stalks in my front yard into a group of high rise condos housing a dozen or so of the noisy little redheaded guys.
This past winter a storm knocked down one of the stalks. It looked like a piñata stuffed with acorns had exploded in my driveway. I thought I had it all cleaned up, but now that there’s a whole new oak forest popping up at the perimeter of my yard, I realize that I missed quite a few. (There’s a saying around here that woodpeckers and scrubjays are the reason forests move uphill.)
A little trivia for you: If you’re familiar with the laugh of Woody Woodpecker the cartoon character, you know what an acorn woodpecker sounds like. The cartoonist Walter Lantz was inspired by one near his office when he created that character.