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Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

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Yucca brevifolia (Joshua tree)
Sherman, Doug

Yucca brevifolia

Yucca brevifolia Engelm.

Joshua Tree, Tree Yucca, Cactus-yucca, Yucca-palm

Agavaceae (Century-Plant Family)


USDA Symbol: yubr

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

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

18 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Capsule

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May


USA: 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 Conditions

Light 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.


Description: 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...
view the full question and answer

From the National Organizations Directory

According 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


Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

From the Archive

Wildflower 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 resources

USDA: Find Yucca brevifolia in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Yucca brevifolia in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Yucca brevifolia


Record Modified: 2018-12-14
Research By: TWC Staff

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