I always enjoy learning a new plant. Especially an interesting one.
I see these huge, somewhat unattractive Agaves around and had been wondering what they were. While searching for an ID of another Agave a friend gave me, this one popped up. The Sisal Agave. The photo above is taken on an undeveloped lot. The Agave in nearly 5′ tall and wide and not very sharp, aesthetically or needle wise.
I learned this is the source of sisal; a common fiber used to make rope, twine, rugs, textiles and even dart boards. Sisal is named for the Port of Sisal on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Botanists seem at odds over the origins of the Sisal Agave but Mexico seems the most likely place to me.
Reading further on the Sisal Agave I found that it was brought to the Florida Keys for cultivation in the 1800’s and like many other horticultural oops we have here it escaped and became an invasive plant. Hence its appearance on a vacant lot.
Sisal is picked a leaf at a time stacked and then processed with a device called a raspador, a rotating wheel of knives that beat the fiber out of the plant. This device seems like something that would be used in the plot of a James Bond movie. I can image Goldfinger with the raspador over James Bonds’ head, threatening him at a Sisal plantation hiding a secret Soviet installation.
Of course, James Bond would use the rope to kill Goldfinger and then escape by swinging over the river while saving a nearly naked glamourous nuclear scientist.
I guess everybody needs a little Sisal.