In the borderlands of New Mexico and Texas, Agaves stud the grasslands. It's a magnificent comparison of the artistic appeal of life forms. Grass is this dynamic, opportunistic, fast-growing and breeze-dancing thing, almost liquid waves, whose success echoes all over the earth in numbers no other vascular plant can claim, while Agaves are this strange biker-gang of alien weaponized artichokes, which do no bend in the breeze but slowly, steadily march into larger and larger heads, (grasses coming and going nervously around them) for many years until finally mysteriously squeezing all of their accumulated life force into a small tree of a flower stalk, and die.
There is something seductively nihilistic about Agaves.
I really try to be ethical about plant watching and plant collecting. I try hard. the problem is that plants don't honor political boundaries, and I will confess, the lure of getting close to a plant overcomes mature reasoning at least once a year for me. I can count twice in my life that I've had dogs come running to visit me on such occasions.
I totally understand those whackos you read about occasionally in the paper who climb over bars and tall fences at the zoo to be inexplicably close to some charismatic giant cat or another before they are somehow surprised by being eaten alive.
Agaves , too, have teeth and they were also on the other side of the fence. I couldn't help myself. Anyhow, regrets are just there to let you know you are capable of good judgement should you decide to go back to using it one day. I, on the other hand, sat next to the biggest Agave parryi ssp. neomexicana I've ever seen. I measured it at 4 feet wide. There were closer observations I would not have been able to make from the highway side of the fence, like the interaction with Agave x gracilipes.
Agave (parryi ssp) neomexicana is growing alongside, but not gene-mixing with Agave x gracilipes, which is said to be a natural hybrid between them and Agave lechuguilla. ("gracilipes" means graceful foot. I don't get the foot bit, but they are indeed graceful in narrow leaf.) Note how they have spike-like, rather than open, tree-branch-like paniculate) flowers stalks of neomexicana. This skinniness is lent from that Agave lechuguilla ancenstry.
The graceful-foot. A. nemexicana flower stem in the background.
You may wonder "Is it really legal to shoot a person trespassing in Texas?" and the answer is no. The second, perhaps more important question is, "Will they do it anyway?"