Today we visited the Irapuato Campus of the Universidad de Guanajuato. We learned about three of their endemic plants and their conservation and were able to view them in their fields. The three endemic plants we learned about and saw were the cactus, agave, and mesquite.
The cactus is a plant native to Mexico and is a common house plant because of the pretty flowers. They are able to survive in arid climates. There are 1600 species of cactus in the US with 60% from Mexico. Cactus are commonly used as a source of food. They are endangered so they are being conserved and having research done to see how to preserve them. One endangered cactus is the Echinocereus schmolli which is native to Guanajuato. They grow under the trees and are believed to be endangered as they might have been burned when the bushes were burned down. Burning fields down are a common practice for management.
Agave is found all over, but Guanajuato is its center or origin. There is a wide variety of species with some having wide leaves or narrow leaves. There is a total of 276 different species of agave. There used to be 23 species in Mexico, but now there’s only 18. There are more than 100 uses of agave. Some of these uses include food, constructing, medicine, and food for animals. It’s most popular use is to make tequila. It’s also used to make other drinks like mescal and pulque. It’s used for fibers to make handcrafts and cosmetics. They need few water and are an ecological support for other plants as they can be used to grow other plants. It’s important to preserve the agave genome as many species are becoming endangered as there is a focus to grow agave azul since it is used to make tequila and is therefore very profitable. Companies are beginning to take over the production of agave azul instead of having Mexican families produce it.
Mesquite a tree adapted to dry zones and is good in areas with no water because they can fix nitrogen. It’s important to the environment as it helps control erosion. There are 46 species all over the world with 34 in Argentina. The most important is P. laevigata which is the most abundant in the world and it’s only found in Mexico. Mesquite is used for food, construction, honey, furniture, medicine, and as a supply of wood to burn. It’s an important charcoal and furniture export. The shadows of mesquite are good for the bushes that grow under the tree.