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Safe Agave Removal

Updated on October 21, 2009

Hello Agave, meet my machette...

It looks innocent... well except the spikey leaves, okay well it looks mean, and it is mean, sneaky mean.
It looks innocent... well except the spikey leaves, okay well it looks mean, and it is mean, sneaky mean.

Protect yourself or face a nasty itchy burning sensation

Agave americana, also known as the century plant due to it's long flowering cycle (actually not one hundred years), is a pain to remove unless you have access to heavy machinery. The spikey tips of each of the leaves stab deep and can cause swelling and bruising, while the juices feel like a chemical burn that eventually turns into red itchy blisters that look like poison ivy, which luckily do not spread, but still itch like crazy for a couple of weeks. Before going out to tackle these prehistoric looking super plants, make sure you are covered from head to feet. Leave no skin exposed, and the thicker the clothes the better. Make sure you have a pair of heavy duty leather work gloves, so when you do have to touch the plant, it can't touch you back.

It's not about the tools, its how you use them

Most people, like myself, can not afford to rent heavy machinery to remove these plants. I prefer to go at it with only two tools: a machette and a hand-held tiller mattock. These plants have a crazy root structure that holds on real tight to the soil below it. The first tricky part is getting past all this plants defenses. Use the machette to cleave through all the long stabby leaves until you are left with only a stubby defenseless core (defenseless as long as you have no exposed skin!). Use the tiller end of your tiller mattock to break up the roots and soil around the base of the plant, rocking it back and forth to further release it's grip on the ground. Hack through any stubborn roots with the mattock end. Pretty soon you should be able to just pull the final remains out of the soil.


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      Chris 6 years ago

      As a landscaper in Florida, we don't see too many of these, so when a customer asked us to remove one, we said sure.

      I knew it was agave from seeing it on tv before. I had no idea what a nasty thing this thing was. We got about 5 minutes into it before we had burning legs, arms, and necks. Felt like someone smeared jalapeño cream on me. I found this great article after the fact, I had to jump online to find out what the deal was with this horrible plant. This thing was a gift from the devil!!!

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      Ray 7 years ago

      Very helpful info....wish I had read this before I went out and tried to cut mine down...with a tank top on. You know the rest.