The official New Mexico state act (p. 2 / A) - here.
As with oaks, Mexico also has the US beat on yucca species diversity. I'll concentrate on some taller yuccas found in Albuquerque & points south:
Such as that monster Soaptree, on the Chihuahuan desert grassland north of Carrizozo, one cold November morning.
Below are just a few examples that make bold, evergreen landscape statements in many towns in the Desert Southwest, from Las Vegas to Abq to El Paso to Carlsbad, and even beyond the desert. However, in places with less sophistication, their commonality often gets them far less respect than they deserve, certainly poor design use, and sometimes removal. Weird, since in Albuquerque or El Paso, they look green and happy on 6-10" of average yearly rainfall.
Yet with countless tree yuccas in our landscapes for a century, one even native, some folks still ask, "but are they hardy?' I bet they don't ask that about aspens, bluegrass or photinias. Time to turn off their water!
Tree yuccas are the palms of the high deserts. Some are even called "palmilla" in Spanish!
Palm or Faxon Yucca / Yucca faxoniana or Y. carnerosana - ever-common (Albuquerque's Four Hills area):
Old and happy. It's native to uplands and a few lower elevation areas in the Chihuahuan Desert, from desert scrub to desert grassland to pinon-juniper-oak areas.
An Albuquerque landscape designer I used to know, once told me how in the early 1970's, a plant digger who sold to the landscape company he co-owned, noted his interest in bringing up some palm yuccas to try out. So, he did - the rest is history.
At one of the countless car lots on Central Ave in Abq:
I bet there are more of those planted in Abq - and now Arizona cities - than are left in Trans Pecos Texas. A shame their native plant protection laws are as weak and unenforced as NM's. But there's hope.
Mountain States Wholesale Nursery in AZ is again disproving false myths about growing desert plants from seed, over collecting them from ranches or the wild. The Y. faxoniana near the sound wall were planted from 15 gallon sizes, forming trunks at the time of this photo, just 2 years later. April - I-40 and Louisiana in Abq:
Wild-collected plants (palm yucca, other tree yuccas, ocotillos, pinons, etc) have a 50% survival rate from my observations and numerous contractor experiences, and they usually take years to re-root and begin to grow. They often look rough from handling and transportation.
Seed-grown plants have over a 90% survival rate, and they start growing once planted from the container, growing 12-18" a year..sometimes faster. They look larger and usually exhibit little damage; also do not tend to come with the dreaded agave snout weevil, which wild-collected, broadleaf yuccas often come with. (fortunately, most narrowleaf yuccas do not seem to be affected by them)
Though in desert cities, with all the cheap, collected accent plants used, the weevils are still around. Nothing is perfect, but seed-grown nursery yuccas are win-win.
Outlaw bikers might also prefer seed-grown Yucca faxoniana, and you don't want to chap their hides:
I bet he's mad now. The City or their contractor recently killed most of them by skinning the protective skirts of dead, dried foliage insulation from the trunks, and then came the 2/11 freeze...that's a future post.
Ahh, late April in Burque. All in bloom! (Supper Rock, Albuquerque):
Torrey Yucca / Yucca torreyi - old, big and happy, this clump topping out at about 20' tall (Nob Hill in Abq):
It is a Chihuahuan Desert native, and it really makes a statement in the rocky uplands of Trans Pecos Texas up to Carlsbad, and above southern NM's valleys. In it's native range, tall, lean and mean (Las Cruces NM):
Mountain Yucca / Yucca schottii (Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains, Cochise County AZ):
Mountain Yucca is from the madrean oak savannas and woodlands of the Sierra Madre Occidental, which extend to the Catalina Mtns above Tucson. That yucca is known to be hardy to cooler, damper climes, as in USDA Z 6 in southern New England. So, Mountain Yucca may be the one to try if you are in wetter, but not too cold of a climate.
Mojave Yucca / Yucca schidigera (near Red Rock Canyon and Las Vegas NV):
Joshua Tree / Yucca brevifolia (Sandia Heights, Albuquerque foothills), but it is an endemic Mojave Desert species:
A young joshua (NE Albuquerque medians):
Nice, waxy blooms:
An oddly-formed joshua that blooms early, mid-March (NE Abq):
Another view of the same, irregular-formed Joshua Tree:
Soaptree / Yucca elata is another Chihuahuan Desert tree yucca, and it happens to be the only tree yucca native in the Albuquerque area and the middle Rio Grande valley of central New Mexico:
Mid-May at the I-10 rest area leaving Arizona, entering NM.
I recall Soaptree first occuring on the mesas west of Sanderson TX, then more where it nicely defines the Marfa Plateau and on to past Silver City, going all the way to Tucson, the Verde Valley of central AZ, and north to Santa Rosa and just north of Abq in NM. The largest ones are west of Deming NM, and Danger Garden posted on those - here. (but of course!) It is as common as roadrunners and chile in Abq and Las Cruces landscapes, but there are many nice ones in Las Vegas NV, too. I even saw an OK-looking one in Kerrville TX, plus some small ones in metro Denver and Boulder, and a really large Soaptree clump in summer-hot Pueblo, Colorado.
They grow fast, but rarely transplant from wild-dug plants. Seed grown, 5 gallon soaptrees grow trunks within 3 years in Abq, reaching 10' in 10 years, or less. Some nurseries sell 15 gallon ones, for a head-start.
A young one at a home (the sandy Abq west mesa):
There are a number of weird forms of Soaptree, such as with foliage lining the trunk (NE Abq):
And this is the weirdest Soaptree, with such small foliage heads (Abq near the State Fairgrounds):
A common, more compact form (UNM in Albuquerque):
And they get tall, this one probably over 40 years old (NE Abq) [note - unless it's a Y. rostrata form?] :
Tough enough? (Central, SW Abq)
Soaptrees often grow along guardrails, escaping roadside mowing (a wild soaptree, Comanche in NE Abq):
And another Soaptree (near UNM in Abq):
Nice flower petal litter, a surprise waking up to this at our motel, on the way back home (Carlsbad NM):
And back to Las Cruces, the Mecca of Soaptree, and the incredible Organ Mtns at sunset:
(I was listening to Cake's "Comfort Eagle" that magical May evening, the high, dry desert air blowing into my car windows)
In a lush garden in Phoenix AZ:
And a 3-4 year-young Blue Yucca in Abq at the Rio Grande Botanic Garden (theirs' now have trunks, taller than me):
Yuccas are most spectacular with xeric grasses and wildflowers to soften their bases, like that Chocolate Flower.
Beaked Yucca / Yucca rostrata, the again-popular Chihuahuan Desert native. (near the NM State Fairgrounds in Abq):
An older one (50 years old?), growing along a parking area (E of UNM in Albuquerque):
A Beaked Yucca thriving at 6,000' elevation (Sandia Heights, far NE Abq):
Yet another one, happier than my class was on a 102F, humid afternoon at the beginning of the monsoon season (Abq):
A Beaked Yucca with the skirt trimmed to evoke a more tropical effect, especially with the Sago underneath (Nob Hill area, Abq):
Me, tagging some seed-grown specimens for my design at a Central New Mexico Community College landscape design project in Abq (Mountain States' high elevation Cochise AZ yard, 2/2003):
Soft and sharp at former boss' home (Sandia Heights, Abq):
Beaked yuccas are like many people, the good ones improving with age (Las Cruces):
New Mexico and other desert southwest locales grow some amazing tree yuccas. But...
Do you hear me speak of allowing ample room for plants to mature? This is the largest Beaked Yucca I know of in cultivation, in Fort Stockton TX. It was spotted by my Arizona friend Dan Goodspeed, standing under it for scale. Yes, some things are bigger in Texas...
This specimen is recognized as the National Champion, though it is named "Yucca thompsoniana" - here.
Paisano Pete in Fort Stockton TX - cute, refined:
Las Cruces NM on I-10 - this is a big roadrunner. Paisano Pete might come up to the belly of this one in southern NM, but probably not any taller. Made of roadside trash, it pays homage to - yes - NM's state bird (p. 2 / B) - here: