Like many other Yucca plants species, Yucca schidigerais known 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 and Sonoran deserts of the southern USA and Mexico. It is an oft used landscaping plant in the southwest USA.
This evergreen shrub or small tree that 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.
Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera) at Indian Cove Campground photograph by Joshua Tree National Park.
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); other Yucca moth species may visit the plant but are not involved in tis pollination.
As the trunk grows the early leaves die off, this leads to the bottom of the yucca foliage clusters having a brown appearance. Living rosette leaves are rigid and a yellow or blue green. 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 4 to 7 per clump. Bell shaped white (purple tinge) 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 6 years 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 proves 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.