Scientific: Yucca brevifolia
Common: Joshua tree
Family: Asparagaceae (subfamily Agavoideae)
Origin: Mojave desert endemic found in eastern California, southern Nevada, southwest Utah, and northwestern Arizona.

Pronounciation: YUK-ca brev-a-FOO-lee-a

Hardiness zones
USDA 8-10

Landscape Use: Very strong accent to focal point. A Mojave desert plant that is for desert-themed landscapes.

Form & Character: Arborescent (tree like), foreboding and untouchable, a dominant yucca.

Growth Habit: Evergreen, woody perennial, very slow when young. Eventually growing rather slowly to 15- to 30-feet tall with a heavy trunk and a few heavy branches.

Foliage/texture: Leaves of very young seedlings (less than 12-inches tall) are slender and tender and herbivory is a problem in its native habitat....but, what a difference age makes! Adult foliage is densely arranged in rosettes at the apex of shoots, dagger-shaped, adult foliage is up to 1-foot long, greenish gray, stiff, sharp strap-like leaves, inflexible, persistent; medium texture.

Flowers & fruits: Striking flower stalks, 3-feet long, bearing white bell shaped flowers in clusters. Fruits are indehiscent capsules, 2 to 4 inches long, which become spongy and dry with age. Fruit clusters might weigh up to 10 pounds.

Seasonal color: White flowers born on stalks in February to April.

Temperature: Tolerant of cold, but surprisingly somewhat intolerant of the highest summer heat (air temperatures higher than 112oF) of the lowest Sonoran (e.g. Phoenix) and Mojave Desert valley floors (e.g. Palm Sorings/Indio).

Light: Full sun

Soil: Well-drained soil conditions is a MUST requirement, gravelly to rocky soil preferred. This large yucca can be very difficult to grow under normal garden conditions and does not transplant well.

Watering: Rarely apply supplemental water.

Pruning: None

Propagation: Seed, difficult

Disease and pests: Root rot is common in moist or poorly drained soils.

Additional comments: Joshua tree is the major life form of the higher elevation Mojave Desert. It is a difficult plant to work with because of short stiff leaves that taper to a "dagger like" point. With a Joshua tree and an old wagon wheel in your landscape you might expect to see Roy Rogers come riding up into your yard on his horse Trigger.

Ethnobotanical factoids: Native Americans used the seeds as a nutritional food source, eaten raw or cooked. Also, native Americans used portions of the root system to make a red dye.