Agave Virginica. False Aloe.
Nat. Ord. Amaryllidaceae. Sex. Syst. Hexandria Monogynia.
Description. — This is a perennial, herbaceous, stemless or scape-bearing plant, with a premorse, tuberous root. The leaves are linear-lanceolate, fleshy, glabrous, radical, with cartilaginous serratures on the margin. The scape is simple, glabrous, with leaf-like scales and sessile flowers, terete, and from three to six feet in bight. The flowers are scattered in a loose, wand-like spike, very fragrant, greenish-yellow, with the tube longer than the acute segments. The corolla is erect, superior, tubular or funnel-form ; filaments erect, longer than the corolla; anthers introrse. Capsule roundish, obscurely triangular, three-furrowed, three-valved, three-celled, and many-seeded.
History. — This plant is common to Pennsylvania and the Southern States, growing on dry or rocky banks, and flowering in August and September. In South Carolina, it is known by the name of Rattlesnake's Master, and is considered an antidote to the bite of that reptile. The root is the part used, it is very bitter, and yields its properties to alcohol.
Properties and Uses. — False aloe is reputed laxative and carminative, and has been beneficially employed in flatulent colic, and in obstinate diarrhea. It is also said to be a valuable counter-poison to the bites of snakes.
The Agave Americana, or American Aloe, also called American Agave, and Century Plant, is an evergreen succulent plant, growing in Florida, Mexico, and other parts of tropical America; it bears a strong resemblance to the plants of the genus Aloe, with which it is sometimes confounded. The root and leaves when cut furnish a saccharine juice, which may be converted into syrup or sugar by evaporation, and into a vinous liquor by fermentation. When evaporated to the consistence of a soft extract, it forms a lather with water, and is sometimes employed as a substitute for soap. The fresh juice is said to be diuretic, laxative, and emmenagogue. G. Perrin, M. D., of U. S. A., strongly recommends the juice of the Am. Aloe, as a remedy in scorbutus, superior to all others. The juice is prepared by cutting the leaves off close to the root, then placing them in hot ashes until thoroughly cooked, when they are removed, and the juice expressed and strained. It is not disagreeable to take, agrees with the stomach and bowels and may be given in doses of from one to three ounces daily.