Skip to main content

Sotol, The Desert Spoon

Dasylirion wheeleri

Sotol is a New Mexico native evergreen that has long, ribbon-like, light green leaves with serrated edges. The leaves form a symmetrical fountain-like clump or rosette with a 3’ diameter or larger. The common name, desert spoon, comes from the appearance of the leaves, when pulled out of the rosette, are shaped like a spoon at their base. On older specimens the rosette will sometimes sit atop a short trunk. Sotol produces spectacular 6 to 12 feet tall white stalks with greenish-yellow flower clusters atop. Flowers are dioecious, with males and females produced on separate plants. Flowers attract honey bees and hummingbirds. Flowers are not always produced annually but every couple years. Seeds have papery wings and are wind dispersed. Sotol does best on well-drained soils in full sun, and is drought and heat tolerant. Sotol makes a great specimen or ornamental landscape plant in the xeric garden. Sotol has been used to produce baskets, mats, ropes, even liquor ("sotol”). Low  water. Zone 6.


Desert Dweller said…
I wonder if provenance dictated spotty hardiness in last winter's brief <-5F or <-10F freeze? There was definite post-winter damage in far SE Abq on some plants, though little damage where it didn't get that cold or for as long. I heard plants that came from seed in southern NM populations had no problem.

My guess on USDA zones, since you note that -
z8 - lower elev / SW edge of range in Arizona
z7 - higher elev / Chih. Desert range NM, TX
(with at least z6 for green D. texanum, D. leiophyllum)

Thoughts? The provenance of your D. wheeleri?
At our Los Lunas Trees That Please Nursery, the cold was not that brief and went well below - 10 F, sustaining below 30 F for several days. At the Arboretum Tomé production nursery of Trees That Please, 4 miles from the retail nursery, we had a low of - 22 F. Here's what happened to our Desert Spoon - D. wheeleri plants. Those planted in the ground had no issues. Those in production, grown from seed and stored in the 3000 square foot cold frame had a 75% mortality rate. The cold frame is not heated and will still bottom-out at the same low temp as outside, but often protects evergreens because of the higher dew point than what's outside. However the soil in the containers will still freeze solid and remained frozen solid for over two months with the containers stuck to the ground with ice caused by that particular event. There are many species of native plants in the same cold frame, including cacti, agave, oaks and redwoods, with only the Desert Spoon having a high failure rate. It could be that the high failure rate was related to the location of the plants near the back door of the building. The seed for the Desert Spoon was collected by staff of Trees That Please from about 7500 feet elevation in the Black Range of the Gila National Forest, in a cold shaded canyon bottom growing in association with Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir and Silverleaf Oak.

Michael Martin Meléndrez - owner of Trees That Please
Desert Dweller said…
Great to hear that provenance. In this part of Abq (above Juan Tabo, S of Indian School), it was very windy prior to the low of -8 to -14F. We had 85 consecutive hours <32F.
Wow,Albuquerque is sure warmer than Los Lunas. I read somewhere that even Las Cruces had 98 hours, or something like that, of consecutive hours below 32F as a result of that same storm.

Popular posts from this blog

Weed Identification: Goatheads or Stickers

Goatheads ( Tribulus terrestris ) are native to Southern Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Goatheads are also called stickers, sticker weed, bullhead, devil’s weed, and puncturevine. Goatheads are easily recognized by their prostrate growth form, leaves with leaflets, yellow flowers, and stickers (Goatheads). If you miss’em visually then they will stab you painfully in the fingers as you work your garden, or stick to your clothing and shoes. Goatheads are the primary reason local bicyclists must get “thorn proof” tires for riding on area trails and streets. Goatheads have prostrate stems that radiate outward from one central point. Leaves are compound with smaller leaflets. Lemon yellow flowers form along the stems and fertilized flowers form fruits.   Fruits consist of several attached structures called nutlets (Goatheads). Each nutlet is a single seed that becomes hard or woody when mature. Each seed has two sharp spines that easily penetrat

Weed Identification: Sand Bur

Sand Bur ( Cenchrus longispinus ) is native to North America. It has other names like sand spur, long-spined sand bur, hedgehog grass, and bur grass . Sand Bur is an annual grass usually growing with a prostrate growth form. It is similar in appearance to other grasses prior to seed formation. Individual plants may be 3’ in diameter, sometimes larger. Sand Bur is a common weed of sandy soils but also grows well elsewhere. Sand Bur will often root at stem nodes that are touching the ground. The root system of Sand Bur is shallow and fibrous making them easily pulled (when immature). Sand Bur produces a flowering spike. As seeds begin to form Sand Bur is easily recognized by its numerous sharp or burred seeds or long spines. As the burred seeds mature they are easily separated from the mother plant and their sharp spines stick to virtually anything. Sand Bur can disseminate its seeds long distances because its sharp spines will hitch a ride on skin, animal hides,

Mulberry Tree

The Mulberry tree ( Morus alba ) is also known as white mulberry. Mulberry trees are fast growing, deciduous trees that are native to China. Mulberry trees can reach 25’-30’ tall and 35’-40’ wide, or larger. Fruitless mulberry or male trees are generally considered more desirable than the female or fruit bearing trees. However, fruitless mulberry trees are prolific pollen producers and are banned in some communities because of allergen potential. Mulberries can grow 4’-6’ per year producing a tree canopy that is more wide than tall. Where water is not limiting, mulberries make great shade trees producing a deep, dark, shade canopy. Leaves are large and sometimes variable in shape. A few strategically planted mulberries can shade an entire yard. The female mulberry tree produces abundant sweet fruit that resemble blackberries. Female trees are very messy because of fruit drop so plant them away from sidewalks, driveways, and the house. Mulbe