Scientific name: Yucca faxoniana
Common name: Faxon yucca
Plant family: Asparagaceae
Article by Susan Bruneni
Photos by Patrick Alexander, Botanist, Bureau of Land Management, Las Cruces District Office
Yucca faxoniana is one of 49 species and 24 subspecies of Yucca in North America and the Caribbean, a genus of perennial shrubs and trees. Yucca faxoniana ranges from northern Mexico to southern New Mexico and west Texas. It is a bladed evergreen shrub that can develop into a sizeable tree. The common name Spanish dagger is often used for other yucca species in the Southwest. This yucca is named for Charles Edward Faxon (1846-1918), the illustrator of Charles Sprague Sargents 14-volume Silva of North America.
Native to New Mexico, Faxon yucca is most common in Southeastern New Mexico, but Santa Feans don’t have to travel far to see this magnificent yucca in person. Visit the Sunrise Discovery Walk of the Ojos y Manos: Eyes and Hands gardens to see the plants. One of the advantages of a vibrant local Botanical Garden is that native plants not growing in our area but tolerant to our climate are often included.
This yucca can produce wide single or multi-trunks from eight to 25 feet tall. In far west Texas, they often form open forests, spectacular when in bloom. The leaves are three-feet long and three-to-five inches wide with stout spine tips. The trunk is covered with a dense thatch of dead leaves which insulates and protects the trunks from exposure. The flowers, ivory to creamy white and bell shaped, are on a flower head up to two feet in length.
They are adaptable to many soil types as long as they are well-drained. It does not like to be over-watered during their dormant period. It grows in full sun, very heat and drought tolerant, cold-hardy but will tolerate partial shade. It is commonly used as an ornamental, but should be planted in a protected area in the landscape with plenty of room.
Various Yucca species have been used widely throughout the Southwest. The leaves are dried and cut into strips for weaving, cloth production, ropes, baskets and sandals.
Yucca (no specific species) is the state flower of New Mexico.
“Yucca faxoniana.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 July 2018. Web. 31 July 2018.
“Yucca faxoniana | West Texas Tree Yucca – Spanish Dagger.” High Country Gardens.
“Yucca faxoniana.” Native Plant Information Network, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 14 Sept. 2015. Web. 31 July 2018.