World Plants Logo

search the world

Tropicals, Woody > Yucca > Yucca brevifolia > Yucca brevifolia

Yucca brevifolia

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

Origin:  Southwestern United States.
Tropicals, Woody
Tree (evergreen)
USDA Hardiness Zone
7a - 10b
Canadian Hardiness Zone
8 - 10
RHS Hardiness Zone
H2 - H6
Temperature (°C)
-25 - 51
Temperature (°F)
-13 - 120
6 - 12 m
3 - 6 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
Mormon immigrants discovered this tree in the mid 19th century in the Southwestern United States and gave it the name Joshua Tree in reference to the biblical figure Joshua.
Accent tree.
Dry, sandy, well drained soil in full sun. Acidic, neutral and alkaline soils are all acceptable. Drought tolerant.
Upright position.
Root rot.
Plains and mountain slopes.
Bark/Stem Description
Younger trees are usually covered in dead leaves that fold down covering the branches and trunk making it look ragged.
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
Large tear drop buds can be seen at the ends of the branches. They are dense and stiff.
Leaf Description
The leaves of seedlings are tender, slender and vulnerable to herbivory. Adult foliage is very dense and dagger-shaped with thick, waxy outer leaves to reduce water loss. They are clustered in rosettes at the apex of the shoot/branch ranging from 0.3 - 1.5 m long and up to 0.3 - 0.5 m in diameter. The leaves themselves are 15 - 35 cm long and 1 cm wide and come to a sharp point. They are inflexible and have small teeth along the margin. The clusters are longer on juvenile plants with a length of 1 - 1.5 m, whereas the more mature plants have clusters of only 0.3 - 1 m in length.
Flower Description
The flowers are arranged in a dense panicle shape that emerges from the bud at the end of the branches. Each flower is 2 - 4 cm long consisting of 6 sepals. The length of the panicle branch is about 30 - 45 cm long. The flower produces an unpleasant odour.
Fruit Description
Elliptical shaped with four evenly spaced dark vertical lines stretching from top to bottom. It's 6 - 10 cm long, somewhat fleshy and has the same distinct odour as the flowers.
Colour Description
Mature bark is sandy brown to light grey in colour. The buds are purplish-green when closed, this colour disappears as the bud begins to open. The leaves are a greenish-grey colour from spring to autumn and develop olive tones in winter. The tips of the leaves are white with a brown colour just beneath it. The sepals are a yellowish-green. The fruit is a yellowish-greenish-brown colour.
Texture Description
The bark appears rough, but is actually smooth and soft in texture, almost cork-like. Leaves are medium in texture.
Notable Specimens
The Joshua Tree National Park, California, United States of America.
Seeding and root cuttings.
Ethnobotanical Uses (Disclaimer)
Used by native tribes of South America who would weave the leaves into sandals and baskets. The flower buds and raw or roasted seeds were eaten as part of their diet. The seeds were used in part to make bread. Ranchers and miners used the trunks and branches for fencing and corrals. Other uses include ropes, paintbrushes, clothing and mats made from leaf fibres. The roots contain saponins which can be used as a substitute for soap or to wash hair. Black and red dyes can be obtained from the roots as well.