Desert Spoon, Another Plant Of Many Uses

The yucca-like Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) is also known as Sotol.

The yucca-like Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) is also known as Sotol. It is very similar to Beargrass and grows in the same habitat. However the hundreds of long, narrow leaves of Desert Spoon are armed with small, sharp, marginal teeth. The rosettes of leaves are usually stemless and up to 6 feet in diameter. In older plants, a trunk may develop and the trunk itself can be as much as 6 feet tall. Like Beargrass, the taxonomic classification of Desert Spoon has changed from time to time.

Desert-spoon-1Desert Spoon is a dioecious plant which means individuals produce only male or female flowers. The flowers are carried on a stalk that emerges from the center of the rosette in early summer and may grow up to 12 feet tall. Males generally produce tiny white flowers while the whitish female flowers are tinged with green or violet. A single plant may produce thousands of flowers which, when pollinated, produce small, reddish-brown, winged seed capsules which contain a single seed. Unlike agaves, Desert Spoon does not die after flowering. However, the plant may not flower every year.

According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, “Desert spoon grows on rocky hillsides and slopes at 3000 to 6000 foot elevation in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, northern and eastern Sonora, Mexico, and in west Texas. Despite its English name, it is primarily a grassland species that extends into the desert. Blooming plants attract huge numbers of insects, including flies, bees, wasps, and butterflies.”

Desert-spoon-2The Tohono O’odham wove beautiful sleeping mats by plaiting together Desert Spoon leaves after removing marginal teeth from the leaves. The Tarahumara and Pima Bajo peoples of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Chihuahua weave baskets from the stripped leaves. They also employ the expanded leaf bases in making large artificial flowers as holiday decorations.

The other name for Desert Spoon, Sotol, is also the name of a distilled spirit made from the plant (in a process similar to making mescal from agaves). It is known as the state drink of Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila. The inner part of the plants and the core of the flower stems are edible. (Source) The plant is protected in Arizona.

Desert Spoon is used as a landscaping plant, but should be kept away from walkways because of the spines on the leaves. See many photos here.

Below is a list of my articles on the natural history of the Sonoran Desert. I invite readers to suggest subjects for more stories.


Thirteen venomous animals of the Southwestern desert.


American Kestrel

Barn Owls

Cactus Wrens – Arizona’s very noisy state bird

Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Cardinals, Pyrrhuloxias and a cameo appearance by Phainopepla

Crested Caracara

Curve-billed Thrasher – a bold and inquisitive bird

Gambels Quail

Gila Woodpecker

Great Horned Owl

Great Blue Herons in the desert

Great-tailed Grackle

Greater Roadrunner

Harris’ Hawks

Hooded Orioles

Mourning Doves

Nighthawks and Poorwills, birds of the night

Observations on Hummingbirds

Peregrine Falcons

Ravens and Crows

Red Tailed Hawk

The Three Accipiters

Thick-billed Parrots in Arizona

Vultures, the clean up crew

Western Screech Owl

Western Tanager – a flaming red-head

White-winged Doves


Coachwhip – a colorful snake

Desert Tortoise

Desert Box Turtles

Gila Monster

Gopher Snakes

Horned Lizard’s clever defenses


Metachromatic Spiny Lizards


Rattlesnakes combat dance

Spinytail Iguana


Black Bear


Creatures of the night – Ringtails

Creatures of the Night: The Bats

Deer of the Desert

Desert Museum gets new black bear

Desert Cottontails

Desert Squirrels

Ferocious Grasshopper mouse

Kangaroo rat

Kit Fox – another creature of the night

Mountain lion dietary supplementation plan

New Bighorn sheep lamb born at Desert Museum

New mountain lion takes over at the Desert Museum

Notes on Javelinas

Notes on Coatis

Pack Rats are Desert Archaeologists

Remember the Glyptodonts

River Otters in Arizona

Skunks of Arizona

Urban Coyote

Wolf attacks on humans in North America


Black Widow Spiders

Carpenter Bees – black and gold and smelling like roses

Desert Bees

Giant Mesquite Bugs

Green lynx spider

It’s time for scorpions

Mist of the Sharpshooters

Palo verde root borers are emerging

Pepsis wasps have the most painful sting

Praying Mantis

The Cochineal, a little bug with a valuable product

The Gentle Desert Tarantula

The Sex Life of Bruchid Beetles

Venomous Centipedes and Cyanide-Oozing Millipedes

Vinegaroons and Sun Spiders

Western Honey Bees


Creature of the Night – Spadefoots

Sonoran Desert Toad


A Boojum, definitely a boojum

Agaves provide food, fiber and adult beverages

Arizona Christmas Cactus

Arizona’s Wild Cotton

Beargrass and basketry

Brittlebush and chewing gum

Cactus water will make you sick

Chain-fruit and teddy bear cholla cactus

Chiltepin peppers, spice and medicine

Chocolate Flower

Creepy Creeping Devil Cactus

Creosote Bush

Desert Broom – another medicinal plant

Desert Mistletoe

Desert Ironwood

Desert Tobacco, a Pretty but Poisonous Desert Plant

Devil’s Claw provides food, fiber and medicine

Guayacán a pretty flowering tree

Invasion of the Popcorn Flowers

Joshua Trees of the Mohave Desert

Life on a Dead Saguaro


London Rocket

Medusa’s Head a strange and useful plant

Mesquite trees provide food, fuel, medicine, and more

Night-blooming Cereus cactus

Oak trees of the Sonoran Desert region

Ocotillo – an aide to hummingbirds and geologists

Palo brea trees and their uses

Palo Verde trees about to turn the desert golden

Passion Flower

Sacred Datura – pretty, poisonous, and hallucinogenic

Saguaro Cactus Icon of the Sonoran Desert

Senita and Totem Pole Cacti

Spectacular flowers of the red Torch Cactus

Staghorn and Buckhorn Cholla Cactus

The Jojoba bush and its valuable oil

Yuccas provide food, fiber, and soap