Scientific Name

Agave cantula Roxb.


Agave cantala Roxb., orth. var.



Common Names

agave, Bombay aloe, cantala, Cebu maguey, century plant, maguey, Manila maguey, sisal


Native to Mexico.

Naturalised Distribution

Occasionally naturalised in south-eastern Queensland, though there are currently no verified herbarium records.


A weed of roadsides, railway lines, embankments, cliffsides, disturbed sites, waste areas, urban bushland, open woodlands, grasslands, pastures, coastal environs, creekbanks and riparian vegetation.


A long-lived (i.e. perennial) rosette-forming shrubby plant usually growing 2-2.5 m tall and 2.5-3 m across. Older individuals develop a short woody stem and sucker to form large clumps or colonies. Mature plants produce massive flower clusters on woody stems 6-8 m tall.

Distinguishing Features

Stems and Leaves

Plants have a short thick trunk (30-60) cm tall at the base and eventually produce robust flowering stems that are green and hairless (i.e. glabrous).

The very large leaves are arranged in a rosette and may be upright (i.e. erect), spreading or bent backwards (i.e. reflexed). They are flexible and relatively thin with small brown teeth (2-4 mm long), mostly 2-3 cm apart, borne along their margins. These leaves (150-200 cm long and 7-9 cm wide) are narrow or lance-shaped (i.e. linear or lanceolate). They have pointed tips (i.e. acuminate apices) that are topped with a dark brown spine (1-1.5 cm long). The leaves are hairless (i.e. glabrous) and dark green or greyish-green in colour.

Flowers and Fruit

The massive flower clusters (3-4 m long) are borne at the top of a very robust flowering stem. These flower clusters have about 20 branches, with each of the branches being further divided towards their tips (i.e. they are panicles). These greenish or greenish-yellow flowers (7-8.5 cm long) are borne in an upright (i.e. erect) position on short stalks (i.e. pedicels). The flowers have six green 'petals' (i.e. perianth segments or tepals), tinged with red or purple, that are fused together at the base into a tube (i.e. corolla tube) 14-17 mm long. The flowers also have six very prominent stamens, consisting of long stalks (i.e. filaments) and yellow anthers. They also have a large ovary topped with a style and three stigmas.

Fruit are usually not produced, however plantlets (i.e. bulbils) usually form in the forks (i.e. axils) of the flowering branches.

Reproduction and Dispersal

This species only reproduces vegetatively. It produces suckers as well as numerous plantlets (i.e. bulbils) on the branches of its flower clusters.

It spreads laterally via suckers and can form very large and dense colonies over time. The plantlets (i.e. bulbils), which usually fall from a significant height, are dispersed by gravity and may also be spread downstream during floods. Plants and bulbils are also commonly spread into bushland areas in dumped garden waste.


This species is not currently declared under any state or local government legislation.


As this species is not a declared plant, its control is not required and there are no restrictions on its sale or cultivation. However, it is an environmental weed and should be controlled in sensitive bushland and conservation areas.

Similar Species

Maguey (Agave cantula) is similar to sisal (Agave sisalana), Caribbean agave (Agave angustifolia) and Florida agave (Agave decipiens). These species can be distinguished by the following differences:

Sisal (Agave vivipara) may also be confused with century plant (Agave americana) and the false agaves (i.e. Furcraea spp.). However, century plant (Agave americana) has broader leaves (15-25 cm wide) and the false agaves (i.e. Furcraea foetida and Furcraea selloa) can be distinguished by their drooping flowers.


Like the other agaves, maguey (Agave cantula ) has escaped from cultivation as a garden ornamental and is a minor environmental weed in the region. It has the potential to invade roadsides, railway lines, disturbed sites, waste areas, abandoned gardens, urban bushland, riparian vegetation, hillsides and open woodlands.