Like many other Yucca plants species, the Yucca schidigera plant is commonly referred to as the Spanish Dagger.
It is also often called the Mojave Yucca, after one of the deserts that it is native to.
In addition to the Mojave, this desert shrub is also a native of the Sonoran deserts of the southern USA and Mexico.
It is often used as a landscaping plant in the southwest parts of the USA.
Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera) at Indian Cove Campground photograph by Joshua Tree National Park, CC.
This evergreen shrub or small tree is very drought tolerant, typically reaching 16 feet (5 m) in height.
As with many other members of the Yucca genus it has sharp bayonet shaped leaves. These are spirally arranged.
It can naturally be found growing at altitudes of about 1000 to 4000 feet (300 to 1200 m), with a maximum height range of just over 8000 feet (2,500 m).
It is long lived, with some plants thought to be over 200 years old. It is slow growing, typically 1 inch (2.5 cm) per annum.
Plants are pollinated exclusively by the Yucca moth ( Tegeticula yuccasella). Although other Yucca moth species may visit the plant they are not involved in its pollination.
photograph by Malcolm Manners, CC.
As the trunk grows the early leaves die off, this leads to the bottom yucca foliage clusters having a brown appearance.
Living rosette leaves are rigid and a yellow or blue green in colour. They can reach 10 feet in length (3 m).
The trunk has a bark that is a grey to brown colour. There are usually several stems, typically four to seven per clump.
Bell shaped white (purple tinged) flowers grow in clusters. The flowers themselves are about 1 to 2 (2.5 to 5 cm) inches long, and the cluster may be up to 4 feet (1.2 m) in length.
A stalk will only produce flowers once.
Fruit and seeds production is very variable between plants, with higher altitude plants seemingly more fecund.
Younger plants of around six years of age do not produce flowers, while ones of 15-year-old plants. Seeds are spread by small mammals that feed on the Yucca fruits.
This has proven to be a very useful plant. Like most Yuccas, the roots can be used to make soap. Fibers found in the leaves were traditionally used for making clothes, rope, and sandals by indigenous American tribes.
The seeds can be ground up and used as flour. Nowadays, this plant is often found in pet feeds as a deodoriser.
It is thought that extracts from this plant may also help to support inflammation, and it is also a rich source of the steroid Saponin.