Plants acaulescent, frequently suckering; rosettes openly cespitose, 3–4 × 5–6 dm. Leaves mostly ascending to erect, (25–)30–50 × 2–4(–5.2) cm; blade light green to yellowish green, sometimes checkmarked but without bud-prints, linear-lanceolate, stiff, adaxially concave toward apex, abaxially convex toward base; margins straight, easily detached, nonfiliferous, conspicuously armed, teeth single 2–6 mm, mostly (1–)2–4 cm apart, rarely absent; apical spine grayish, conical to subulate, 1.5–4.5 cm. Scape (2–)2.5–3.5 m. Inflorescences spicate, densely flowered on distal 1/2; bracts caducous, linear, 1–3 cm; peduncle 2–5 mm, rarely 20–150 mm. Flowers 2–3 per cluster, erect to slightly recurved, (2.4–)3–4.5 cm; perianth yellow, frequently tinged with red or purple, tube campanulate, 1.5–4 × 6–12 mm, limb lobes ascending, subequal, 11–20 mm; stamens long-exserted; filaments inserted on rim of perianth tube, spreading, yellow to reddish, 2.5–4.2 cm; anthers pale yellow, (11–)15–20 mm; ovary (0.8–)1.5–2.2 cm, neck constricted (2–)4–8.5 mm. Capsules sessile or short-pedicellate, oblong, 1.8–2.5(–3) cm, apex beaked. Seeds 4.5–6 mm.
N.Mex., Tex.; n, e Mexico.
Gravelly to rocky calcareous places in desert scrub; 500–1400 m. <br>This species is the dominant agave on the Chihuahuan Desert.
Agave lechuguilla is the principal source of “istle” or “ixtle,” a hard fiber used for rope and known by the trade name “Tampico fibre.” The plant is poisonous to cattle, goats, and sheep.