The Dasylirion wheeleri is a favorite butchering subject for landscapers. It seems everywhere I go this plant, commonly called Sotol or Desert Spoon, is pruned up to look like a pineapple. I can’t figure out what compels landscape crews to do this, as this plant looks quite nice in its natural rosette shape.
After years, it will form a trunk of sorts naturally. These plants can get huge—up to six feet high and in diameter. They have no business in street medians and in small landscapes. Perhaps this is the main reason for the pruning—wrong plant in the wrong place.
D. wheeleri, sometimes mistaken for a Yucca or Agave, is part of the Agavaceae family. After sending up a flower stalk, it doesn’t die like most Agave. The Dasylirion genus contains about twelve species, and is native to the southwestern U.S. This plant is drought and frost tolerant and needs no care. I have several in my garden, where I use it as an accent plant to contrast with columnar and pad cacti. I've made sure the shrub has a wide berth in order to grow naturally. Since my plants are young and still relatively small, the open space around them looks rather barren, but I've planned for its future size.
This plant had many useful purposes for native peoples. Its stem fibers were made into baskets and other household items. Sotol parts are edible for both humans and livestock. Today in Mexico, parts of the plant are made into an alcoholic drink called Sotol.