Yucca brevifolia Liliaceae, Agavaceae
Joshua Tree YUK-ah brev-i-FO-lee-a
- Erect, evergreen, tree-like monocot, about 3-30 ft (1-9 m) tall, but may reach 50 ft (15 m), usually single stemmed with branches at 4-10 ft (1.2-3 m) above the ground, usually openly branched, trunk to 2 ft (0.6 m) in diameter. Leaves in dense rosettes at the ends of stems, each leaf 20-35 cm long, about 4-5 cm wide, spiny-tipped, margin minutely serrate, dark green above; older leaves cling to branches, creating a thatch, finally forming a gray corky bark. Flowers bloom in late winter/early spring, are more or less bell shaped, 4-7 cm wide, cream to greenish, unpleasant mushroom-like odor, papery at maturity, found in long (30-50 cm) clusters. Fruit a 3 cm long capsule, green-brown, elliptical, contains many flat, black seeds.
- Sun. Best in dry, well-drained desert gardens. Drought-tolerant.
- Hardy to USDA Zone 6 Native range from southern California, Mexico, and western Arizona eastward into southern Nevada and southwestern Utah. In greatest abundance in the vicinity of Joshua Tree National Monument, California.
- It relies solely on the female yucca moth (Tegeticula synethetica) for pollination. The moth gathers pollen from one plant and transfers it to a flower on another plant as she deposites her eggs the flowers' ovaries. The moth has evolved special organs to collect and distribute the pollen onto the surface of the flower. Seed production is totally dependent on the availability of this moth, which in the larval stage, feeds on a small percentage of seeds.
- brevifolia: means short-leaved. The tree was named Joshua by Mormon settlers, for its supposed resemblance to a praying or gesturing person.