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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - December 27, 2008

From: Los Angeles, CA
Region: California
Topic: General Botany, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Strange form of Dasylirion sp. (sotol)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty: I have a client with a huge (2 ft. diameter trunk), multi-headed dasylirion. On one or more of the heads, the leaves arch inward instead of outward. Someone said this is because of an injury it sustained at some point of its life. We have been tending this garden for approximately two years and though it's grown, the leaf status has not changed. Is this habit a genetic mutation - or is it really an injury? I know this isn't a wheeleri or longissima or texanum.

ANSWER:

This sounds like a case of fasciation, a plant developmental anomaly in which it appears that stems, flowers, leaves and/or fruits have been fused. It is uncertain whether it is genetically determined or caused by disease or some other sort of trauma to the plant. It does appear that there may be an inheritable tendency toward fasciation that may be triggered by environmental conditions such as temperature, crowding, insect attack, disease or wounding of the plant.  Here are photos and more discussion of fasciated plants and also photos of some fasciated cactus—a synonym for fasciation is cristation.

The species of Dasylirion shown in our Native Plant Database are Dasylirion leiophyllum (green sotol), Dasylirion texanum (Texas sotol) and Dasylirion wheeleri (common sotol). USDA Plants Database lists an additional native species, Dasylirion heteracanthum (Trans-pecos sotol).  You can see photos of all four native species in the Texas A&M Horticulture Database. Dasylirion longissimum [syn. D. longissima, D. quadrangulatum] (Mexican grass tree, toothless sotol) is a native of Mexico.  Neither the USDA Plants Database nor our Native Plant Database includes Mexican species that are not also natives of the United States or Canada.  Since the plant has a strange form, it may be difficult to identify the exact species using only photographs; but you may send us photos, if you like, and we will try to identify it. For instructions on submitting photos please visit the Plant Identification page. 


Dasylirion leiophyllum

Dasylirion texanum

Dasylirion wheeleri

Fasciated Lupinus texensis

 

 

 

 

 

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