Yucca brevifolia Engelm.
Joshua Tree, Tree Yucca, Cactus-yucca, Yucca-palm
Agavaceae (Century-Plant Family)
USDA Symbol: YUBR
A tree-like yucca, Joshua-tree grows 5-40 ft. tall, with a columnar, much-branched trunk forming a weird and picturesque, open crown. The stiff, blue-green leaves, 8-14 in. long, have yellow margins. The broad flower spikes are short (usually less than 3 ft.) with a candelabra of side branches graced by 1 1/2 in., bell-shaped, fragrant, creamy-white flowers. A picturesque or grotesque, narrow-leaf evergreen tree with short, stout trunk; open, broad crown of many, stout, widely forking, spreading, and sometimes drooping branches; and spiny, daggerlike leaves.
Joshua Tree, the largest of the yuccas, is the characteristic tree of the Mojave Desert and has come to symbolize the area. The Mormon pioneers named this species Joshua, because its shape mimics a person praying with uplifted arms or gesturing wildly, referring to the Biblical leader pointing the way to a Promised Land. It is abundant at Joshua Tree National Monument in southern California and Joshua Forest Parkway in western Arizona. Native Americans made meal from the seeds and a dye for decorating baskets from the reddish rootlets. Red-shafted flickers drill holes in the branches to make nests, which are later occupied by other birds. The desert night-lizard lives in the dead leaves and branches, and woodrats gnaw off the spiny leaves for their nests. The foliage was a staple in the diet of extinct ground sloths.
From the Image Gallery
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
DistributionUSA: AZ , CA , NV , UT
Native Distribution: Extreme s.w. UT, s. NV, n.w. AZ, s.e. CA, and northern Sonora
Native Habitat: Deserts above 3500 ft.
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Sun
Soil Description: Sandy or rocky soils.
Conditions Comments: Remove old flowering stems but leave the dried leaves. These absorb moisture and help sustain and insulate the plant especially in cold, desert areas.
PropagationDescription: Yuccas will germinate promptly from fresh seed held over winter. Seeds germinate best in 60-70 degree temperatures. Yuccas may also be grown from rhizomes, stem cuttings, or by digging offsets from the side of established plants. Transplant into a well
Seed Collection: Gather capsules as they begin to dry but before they split. Allow to dry, then crush to remove seeds. Overwinter, keep seeds in moist sand in the refrigerator. For longer storage periods, keep in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: No treatment necessary.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Replacing grass with xeric plants in Nevada
March 20, 2009
I am looking to xeriscape my front yard - remove all grass! I am thinking 3-4 larger plants: bird of paradise (mesquite??), aloe, and ..?? Also, possibly a Chilean mesquite. Do you have suggestio...
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From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
BibliographyBibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski
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From the ArchiveWildflower Newsletter 1995 VOL. 12, NO.3 - Explore the Big Bend With the Wildflower Center, Education Director\'s Report, T...
Wildflower Newsletter 1996 VOL. 13, NO.5 - Bats as Cacti Pollinators, Fall Foliage Hotlines, Creating Fall Foliage Leafprin...
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Yucca brevifolia in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Yucca brevifolia in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Yucca brevifolia
MetadataRecord Modified: 2018-12-14
Research By: TWC Staff