Maguey Minis terminology and vocabulary

September 06, 2021 5 min read

Maguey Minis terminology and vocabulary

Scientific Classification

Domain: Eukaryota

Kingdom: Plantae

Phylum: Spermatophyta (sub - angiosperm)

Class: Monocotyledonae

Order: Asparagales

Family: Agavaceae

Genus: Agave L.

Species: (example) Angustifolia

Binomial Nomenclature

A formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages. Created by the Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus.


Biological genus is defined as a taxonomic rank comprised of species with common attributes. It includes group(s) of species that are structurally similar or phylogenetically related. In the case of Agave plants, Agave is the genus. 


A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. 

All species (except viruses) are given a two-part name, a "binomial". The first part of a binomial is the genus to which the species belongs. The second part is called the specific name or the specific epithet. For example, Agave angustifolia is one of over 200 recognized species of the genus Agave, with angustifolia being the species’ epithet.

Variety / Variant

A taxonomic rank below that of species and subspecies, but above that of form. 

An example would be A. parryi var. huachucensis.


A genus (Agavaceae) of monocots native to the hot and arid regions of the Americas, although some Agave species are also native to tropical areas of South America. The genus Agave (from the Ancient Greek αγαυή, agauê andtranslates to “noble, illustrious”) is primarily known for its succulent and xerophytic species that typically form large rosettes of strong, fleshy leaves.


A Taíno word for agave; adopted by the Spanish. 

Other names for the plant are:  Metl in Nahuatl, Dob in Zapotec, Ki in Mayan and Uda in Otomi.

Common names (for Agave plants)

Names given to the magueys growing in the local community by the people who live there. 

If you are visiting a palenque, learn and use the names given to the native magueys by the community who work and live among these plants.


The study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features including all aspects of outward appearance. 


A flowering plant with an embryo that bears a single cotyledon (seed leaf) upon germination.​​


A flowering plant characterized by having two cotyledons (seed leaves) upon germination.


Plants are those that flower, set seeds and then die.


A plant that flowers once and dies, but requires several to many years to mature.

Gentry, H.S. 1982. Agaves of Continental North America. The University of Arizona Press


A significant part of the embryo within the seed of a plant, and is defined as "the embryonic leaf in seed-bearing plants, one or more of which are the first to appear from a germinating seed.” The number of cotyledons present is one characteristic used by botanists to classify the flowering plants (angiosperms).


A type of tissue found in plants. It consists of undifferentiated cells (meristematic cells) capable of cell division. Cells in the meristem can develop into all the other tissues and organs that occur in plants. These cells continue to divide until a time when they get differentiated and then lose the ability to divide.


A rosette is a circular arrangement of leaves or structures resembling leaves. In flowering plants, rosettes usually sit near the soil. In Agaves, the rosettes grow in a spiral iterative formation. The inner leaf pushes out the outer leaves from the center of the plant. It continues this spiral growth their entire life. 


A stoma is a pore, found in the epidermis of leaves, stems, and other organs, that controls the rate of gas exchange. The pore is bordered by a pair of specialized parenchyma cells known as guard cells that are responsible for regulating the size of the stomatal opening. 

CAM Photosynthesis

Crassulacean acid metabolism, also known as CAM photosynthesis, is a carbon fixation pathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions that allows a plant to photosynthesize during the day, but only exchange gases at night. Check out this great Khan Academy video explaining CAM!

Malic Acid

A dicarboxylic acid that is made by all living organisms, contributes to the sour taste of fruits, and is used as a food additive. In the C4 carbon fixation process, malate is a source of CO2 in the Calvin cycle.


Angiosperms are vascular plants. They have stems, roots, and leaves. Angiosperm eggs are fertilized and develop into a seed in an ovary that is usually in a flower.


Flower stalk of the agave containing the inflorescence; the reproductive part of the plant.

Spicate (spike)

An unbranched inflorescence with flowers that grow out of a single shaft.

Gentry, H.S. 1982. Agaves of Continental North America. The University of Arizona Press 


In a flowering plant, a cluster of flowers on a branch or a system of branches.


The branched inflorescence of the genus agave with flowers born in the umbellate clusters on lateral branches.

Gentry, H.S. 1982. Agaves of Continental North America. The University of Arizona Press


An unbranched, indeterminate type of inflorescence bearing pedicellate flowers (flowers having short floral stalks called pedicels) along its axis, the youngest flowers are at the top and the oldest flowers are at the base of the stalk.


A stamen typically consists of a stalk called the filament and an anther that contains microsporangia. Most commonly anthers are two-lobed and are attached to the filament either at the base or in the middle area of the anther.


The part of a stamen that contains the pollen.


The transfer of pollen from a male part of a plant to a female part of a plant, later enabling fertilization and the production of seeds. Pollinating agents are animals such as insects, birds, and bats; water; wind; and even plants themselves, when self-pollination occurs within a closed flower. Pollination often occurs within a species. When pollination occurs between species it can produce hybrid offspring in nature and in plant breeding work.

Hijuelos (Spanish) Rhizomorphic Clones

Genetic clonal copies of the mother plant. This form of asexual reproduction occurs by underground stolons or rhizomes.

Bulbillos (Spanish) Bulbil

A small, young plant that is reproduced vegetatively from axillary buds on the parent plant's stem or in place of a flower on an inflorescence. These young plants are clones of the parent plant that produced them—they have identical genetic material. The formation of bulbils is a form of asexual reproduction, as they can eventually go on to form new stand-alone plants.


A Brix value, expressed as degrees Brix (°Bx), is the number of grams of sucrose present per 100 grams of liquid.


+ All citations for this content are directly linked in the titles +


Sabrina Lessard
Sabrina Lessard