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Yucca brevifolia

Yucca brevifolia Engelm.


Joshua Tree, Yucca Palm, Tree Yucca, Palm Tree Yucca

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
GenusYuccaLinnaeus mistakenly derived the genus name from the Carib word for (similar-appearing) cassava, yuca
SpeciesbrevifoliaMeans “short-leaved”

About plant names...

It is hard to believe, but Joshua trees are yuccas. The common name derives from a group of Mormon settlers, one of whom felt that the tree’s upward-pointing branches reminded him of a biblical story about Joshua, arms upraised in prayer. These trees are natives of the southwestern United States.

Identification: Joshua trees are found alone or in groves on desert plains, slopes and mesas in the Mojave Desert, or Queen Valley and Lost Horse Valley in Joshua Tree National Park. It is found at elevations of 2000-6000' (609-1828 m). Trees are 15-40' (4.6-12 m) high, and 12-36" (30-91 cm) around. Bell-shaped, cream-colored blossoms are 1¼-1½" (3.2-3.8 cm) around. They occur in dense clusters up to 18" (45 cm) long. Fruits are light brown to reddish capsules, 2½-5" (6.3-12 cm) × 2" (5 cm), with six cells.

See the Yucca page for a comparison with other yuccas.

Yucca brevifolia (Joshua Tree, Yucca Palm, Tree Yucca, Palm Tree Yucca)

Photo by Takwish, taken in the Mojave Desert near Kramer Junction, CA, 3/11/2008.

Online References:

Yucca brevifolia on Wikipedia

Yucca brevifolia on DesertUSA: Exploring the Southwest

Yucca brevifolia on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database

Yucca brevifolia on Wikimedia Commons (extensive photos)

Yucca brevifolia on CalPhotos (more photos)


Irish, Mary & Irish, Gary, Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants: A Gardener’s Guide, Timber Press, 2000, p. 239

Yucca brevifolia description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Aug 2013.

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Yucca brevifolia (Joshua Tree, Yucca Palm, Tree Yucca, Palm Tree Yucca)

Teddy bear cholla is in the foreground. · 11/12/2010 · Joshua Tree National Park, CA · By Constance B. Kent

Range: Zones 7-10:

About this map...