Plant Species of the Bright Angel Trail:
Kaibab century plant, Agave utahensis var. kaibabensis

See Plant Guide to Bright Angel Trail for an introduction to this page, especially the Introduction To These Species Pages.


Identification status: high confidence.

Agave utahensis var. kaibabensis is easily recognized when in bloom by its honking flower stalk, which can range up to 30 feet tall (see pictures below). The flower stalks of other Agave species are less than 15 feet tall.

When not in bloom, if you see a rosette with nasty-looking teeth along the leaf margin (see pictures below), and that doesn't have other rosettes coming from the same base, you're looking at this taxon.

The Kearney and Peebles key is:

1a. Inflorescence a long spike, appearing narrowly cylindric
2a. Leaf margins with prickles all along the margin;
    leaves 2-4 cm wide; scapes usually more than 2 m long
3b. Rosette solitary; leaves straight, ascending-spreading;
    scapes 4.5-7.5 m (12 - 30 feet) long ...Agave utahensis var. kaibabensis

The scape length using feet comes from McDougall, and is not the exact or even approximate equivalent of the length in meters from Kearney and Peebles. (One can lose accuracy by converting from one system to another, rounding, and then converting back and rounding. For example, 12 feet = 3.66 m, but 3.5 m = 11 feet.)

There are two other Agave species in the Grand Canyon Flora:

Other Agave species have been reported, but are not substantiated by vouchers:

Of course, these species may be present in the Grand Canyon, but it would be nice to have some vouchers determined as these species to document their occurrence here.

A. utahensis var. kaibabensis is only found in northern Arizona and possibly Utah. USDA Plants says it also occurs in Utah, but the Flora of North America only gives it in Arizona. Kearney and Peebles say known only from northern Arizona; Kaibab Plateau on the north side of the Grand Canyon, also within the Canyon. Huisinga et al 2006 give its location as Marble Canyon downstream to Kanab Canyon, preferring calcareous or sandstone outcrops.

From a SEINet search on 29 September 2007, there are 26 vouchers of this species from the Coconino County portion of the Grand Canyon. Because the locality information is "hidden", I cannot report the nearest vouchers. Note that there may be additional vouchers at other herbaria not available through SEINet.

First occurrence on Bright Angel Trail: mile 2.42, elevation 5173 feet (1577 m); the first off-trail plant is at mile 0.98, elevation 6153 feet (1875 m).

Number of plants along Trail: at least plants were found in at least different locations in September 2007.


From 5 September 2007, mile 0.98, some distance off-trail:

From 5 September 2007, mile 1.53, just off-trail: Note how honkingly-long the inflorescence is!

From 5 September 2007, mile 2.42, on-trail: Note that the tips of some of the leaves actually curve outward, unlike the tips that curve inward of var. utahensis. Although the leaves on the northern side of this plant are in fact curved inward, I suspect they are just curved toward the sun, since this plant is on a north-facing slope.


See Resources for Grand Canyon Flora for further information on most of these references. Entries in the second column are either the name used in that source or a page reference. The name is linked to online pages when available. If a given reference does not contain this taxon, the entry is either left blank or contains a hyphen.

Scientific NameAgave utahensis var. kaibabensis
1987 Grand Canyon Flora NameAgave utahensis var. kaibabensis
1987 Grand Canyon Flora page13
SEINet Image PageAgave utahensis var. kaibabensis
USDA PlantsAgave utahensis var. kaibabensis
Flora of North AmericaAgave utahensis subsp. kaibabensis
Jepson Manual for California treatment
Jepson Manual illustration page
Kearney and Peebles NameAgave kaibabensis
Kearney and Peebles Page #194
Vascular Plants of AZ nameAgave utahensis var. kaibabensis
Vascular Plants of AZ volume: page32:11
Huisinga et al 2006 nameAgave utahensis var. kaibabensis
Huisinga et al 2006 page numbers78-79
Epple Name-
Epple description page #-
Epple pix #-
McDougall 1964 nameAgave kaibabensis
McDougall 1964 page #68
Brian 2000 NameAgave utahensis var. kaibabensis
Phillips 1979 nameAgave utahensis var. kaibabensis
Phillips 1979 page #41
Stockert 1967 nameAgave utahensis
Stockert 1967 page #front

Go to:

Copyright © 2007 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last Update: 29 September 2007