8. Furcraea Ventenat, Bull. Sci. Soc. Philom. Paris. 1: 65. 1793.
Mauritius hemp, pita, cabuya, cahum [for Antoine François de Fourcroy, 1755–1809, French chemist who helped establish the system of chemical nomenclature]
Plants massive multiannuals, scapose; trunks usually absent, to 6 m when present. Stems aboveground. Leaves up to 50, broad or narrowly lanceolate, to 3.3 m, rigid or flexible, very fibrous, margins with small or large corneous teeth, mature apex a firm, blunt point. Inflorescences paniculate, to 13 m, frequently producing bulblets. Flowers in clusters of 2–5, drooping; tepals spreading, distinct except at base, greenish or white, ovate to oblong, longer than stamens and styles; filaments abruptly expanded below middle; ovary inferior; style dilated and 3-lobed proximal to middle; stigma 3-lobed. Fruits capsular, globose to cylindrical, to 8 cm, infrequently produced. Seeds many, black, flat, 2 rows per locule. x = 30.
Species ca. 22 (2 in the flora): introduced; Mexico, Central America, West Indies, South America.
A number of Furcraea species are cultivated in warm climates worldwide as ornamentals and for cordage from leaf fibers. Reproduction by bulblets from the inflorescence is common.
Furcraea was divided by J. R. Drummond (1907) into three variable groups based on leaf margins. Plants of two of these groups are reported to persist or reproduce locally in southern Florida. Specimens are scarce. Within Furcraea there is a large synonymy, including names that are difficult to apply with certainty because they are based on incomplete specimens or European cultivated material.
R. W. Long and O. Lakela (1971) mentioned Furcraea macrophylla Baker as an ornamental that possibly persists in old sites, but I have seen no herbarium specimens that document its presence in Florida. That species is marked by larger leaves with larger, horny, hooked teeth.
Drummond, J. R. 1907. The literature of Furcraea with a synopsis of the known species. Rep. (Annual) Missouri Bot. Gard. 18: 25–75. Trelease, W. 1910. Observations on Furcraea. Ann. Jard. Bot. Buitenzorg, Suppl. 3: 905–915.