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Dasylirion wheeleri S. Watson

Sotol, desert spoon

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassLiliopsidaMonocots (plants with a single seed leaf); includes the lily family
SubclassLiliidaeIncludes lilies, orchids, and many others
OrderAsparagalesA diverse group that includes asparagus
FamilyAsparagaceaeAgaves, asparagus, hyacinths, and others
GenusDasylirionFrom dasy-, ancient Greek δασύς (dasús, “hairy”); and Greek leirion, “lily”
SpecieswheeleriAfter George Montague Wheeler (1842-1905), who explored and mapped some 72,000 square miles of territory, including the Death Valley and Mojave Desert regions, recording data on archeology, geology, botany, zoology, and Native Americans

About plant names...

Common sotol is native to southwestern North America.

Identification: Mature plants have a thick trunk up to 5′ (1.5 m) in height, with a symmetrical, attractive, spherical spray of swordlike leaves on top. The trunk is covered with a protective layer of dead leaves. Sometimes it is erect; sometimes it snakes along the ground. Leaves are light blue-green to gray in color, waxy, 1-3½′ (35-110 cm) × ⅜-1″ (1-3 cm) wide. Leaf edges have strong yellow teeth. Flower spikes are 9½-20′ (3-6 m) in height, with smaller greenish or straw-colored flowerheads that look like fluffy catkins. The individual flowers are very small, about 1/16″ (2 mm). They are white on male plants and purple-pink on females.

Dasylirion wheeleri (sotol, desert spoon)

Flowerhead close-up of Dasylirion wheeleri in cultivation at western edge of Las Vegas, Nevada. By Stan Shebs. 7/27/2005.

Edibility: Common sotol is not edible, but it is used to create a somewhat tequila-like distilled spirit, also known as sotol. Here is a description of sotol with a distinct marketing spin.


Irish, Mary & Irish, Gary, Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants: A Gardener’s Guide, Timber Press, 2000, p. 199

Online References:


Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and the Plants of the Sonoran Desert

as Compiled by the Master Gardeners of the University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension

The USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database



Dasylirion wheeleri description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Dasylirion wheeleri (sotol, desert spoon)

5/25/2009 · Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, Ari­zona

Dasylirion wheeleri (sotol, desert spoon)

7/29/2023 · Huachuca Mountains, Ari­zona · By John W. Kent ID is uncertain


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