Soaptree Yucca

Yucca elata

Range

Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts from Trans-Pecos Texas west through central New Mexico to central Arizona and south into northern Mexico, between 1500 and 6000 feet.

Habitat

Grows in dry, sandy plains, mesas and desert washes, as well as in desert grasslands.

Flowers

Clusters of long, bell-shaped, white flowers, 2 inches long with 6 broad, pointed sepals, that crown the tops of long stalks that emerge in the spring.

Fruit

A 1 1/2 to 3 inch long light brown capsule matures during the summer. It splits open into 3 parts revealing many small, black, thin, rough, seeds.

Description

The soaptree yucca is one of the most characteristic plants of the Chihuahuan Desert. It is an abundant evergreen, palm-like shrub or small tree growing 10 to 18 feet high. The gray trunk -- with a diameter of 6 to 12 inches -- is slightly furrowed below and covered with dead leaves at the top. It is usually unbranched and has very long, narrow leaves. The grasslike leaves are flat and linear, growing 1 to 3 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide. The yellowish, leathery leaves have fine white threads along the edges and end in a sharp spine.

The soaptree yucca derives its name from the soapy material in its roots and trunks which made this plant a popular substitute for soap. Native Americans used the coarse fiber of the leaves for weaving baskets. Cattle enjoy the tender young stalks, and chopped trunks and leaves are still utilized as emergency cattle feed in times of drought.

Click here to read about the yucca moth.

We have an online wildflower field guide that is designed to help you identify desert wildflowers by color, scientific name, region and common name. The pictures are sized to work on the iPod, iPhone, iPad and similar devices. With your iPod or phone you will easily be able to identify wildflowers while in the desert. Links for downloads are on the bottom of the Wildflower Field Guide page.

Photo tips: Most digital point-and-shoot cameras have a macro function - usually symbolized by the icon of a little flower. When you turn on that function, you allow your camera to get closer to the subject, looking into a flower for example. Or getting up close and personal with a bug. More on desert photography.

Mojave Desert Wildflowers - This book is the standard by which all other wildflower books are measured. The author, Jon Mark Stewart, has combined super photography with concise information. This book has an entire color page for each wildflower covered, with a discussion of the wildflower. 210 pages with 200 color photos. More...

What's Blooming Now - Check the Wildflower Reports


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