Golden Valley Botanicals

Golden Valley Botanicals

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Yucca brevifolia (Joshua Tree)

Plant Type

Family

Asparagaceae

Common Names

Joshua Tree
Yucca Palm
Desert Dagger
Izote de Desierto
humwichawa

Alternate Latin Names

Yucca brevifolia 2
Yucca brevifolia 3
Yucca brevifolia 4
Yucca brevifolia 5

Hardiness Zones

Plant Characteristics

Origin:

The Mojave Desert, parts of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, California, and Northern Baja Mexico

Height:

20-30′ (Old specimens can be even larger)

Width:

15-30′

Exposure:

Full Sun to Partial Shade

Elevation:

2000' - 6000'

Cold Hardiness:

-13 F when dry (Once established, Young plants will be hardy to around 15 F)

Heat Tolerance:

Summers as hot as 120 F

Irrigation:

Very Low, Once Established

Growth Rate:

Moderate

Bloom Color:

Creamy White

Bloom Time:

Spring, Early Summer
Foliage:

Evergreen

Toxicity Info:

NA

Cultivation Notes

Yucca brevifolia, more commonly known as Joshua Tree, is a very slow-growing and long-lived Southwest native shrub or tree endemic to the Mojave Desert. It’s actually recently become a member of the Agave family. They are often threatened by climate change, livestock grazing, fire, and vandalism. As the largest Yucca, they are considered an ‘indicator species’ whose health and population sizes can give us a clue about what is going on in the desert ecosystems on a larger scale. Their continued ability to thrive as we move deeper into the 21st century is considered greatly threatened, making it more important now than ever that backyard gardeners plant them in different areas to ensure the successful preservation of the species.

Usually, specimens will grow at a rate of 1.5-3 inches per year, and wait to become 3-9 feet before branching out from the main stem once they have successfully bloomed. They grow faster during their first ten years of life. They often live an average of 150 years, but older specimens are estimated to be around 300 years old. (One 60 foot specimen located in California is estimated to be a whopping 1000 years old!). Their deep and extensive root systems enable the plant to become extremely resilient to drought. Good drainage is essential.

For best results plant next to a ‘nurse plant’ that can provide shelter from wind and sun while the plant becomes established, similar to Saguaro cacti and Palo Verde trees. Protect the small immature plants from rabbits and deer. Joshua Trees are only pollinated by a special Yucca moth called Tegeticula synthetica which has specifically evolved to pollinated Yucca brevifolia. Orioles and other birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects love these plants as a habitat and food source.

Indigenous Americans of the Southwest use this plant as fiber for weaving baskets and sandals, as a dye, and as a dietary supplement.