Plants robust, with large crowns, to 40 cm diam.; trunks to 1.5 m, usually reclining. Leaves stout, rigid; blade whitish or bluish green, 35-100 × 2-3 cm wide above broadened base, densely waxy-glaucous, papillose, dull; prickles all antrorse. Inflorescences often massive, to 5 m; stalk 3-6 diam. at base; branches lateral, pendent in fruit, 3-10 cm; bracts wedge-shaped, attenuate; fascicles of flowers spreading, 10-20 cm from base to tip; primary axes 4-14 cm. Flowers with receptacles 0.2-0.5 mm; tepals sometimes tinged purple, 2.4 × 1-1.5 mm; style 0.2-0.3 mm, becoming swollen and golden brown in fruit; stigma lobes 0.4 mm; pedicel 3-3.5 mm in fruit. Capsules broadly obovoid or rounded in cross section, not indented, 5-8 × 4-5(-7) mm; distal wing lobes 2-2.5 mm, often indented on side. 2n = 38.
Flowering mostly late May--Jun. Open, rocky slopes; 1200--1900 m; Ariz., N.Mex., Tex.; Mexico (Chihuahua, Sonora).
Morphologically, Dasylirion wheeleri is fairly uniform within its range in the United States, with some minor variation in fruit size and receptacle length.
Wiggins 1964, Benson and Darrow 1981, Kearny and Peebles 1979, Allred and Ivey 2012, FNA 2003
Common Name: common sotol Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Subshrub General: Large, succulent shrub emerging from a central thick, woody, subterranean caudex. Plants dioeceous. Leaves: Linear, basally clumped, elongated, rigid, about 1 m long and 3-4 cm broad, whitish to bluish green, waxy, the margins armed with sharp, curved spines that point toward the leaf apex. Flowers: Large terminal panicles, on stalks 1.5-5 m tall; male panicles composed of catkinlike spikes. Perianth about 2 mm long, sepals and petals thin, whitish, sometime tinged purple. Fruits: Capsule 7-9 mm long, 6-8 mm broad, 1-celled, 3-winged. Ecology: Found on rocky or gravelly hillsides and slopes from 3,000-6,000 ft (914-1829 m); flowers May-July. Distribution: c and s AZ, NM; south to n MEX. Notes: This is a ubiquitous shrub of Chihuahuan scrub and semidesert grasslands. Distinguish from Yucca and Nolina by larger, curved teeth on leaf margins and from Agave by the leaves being thin, not succulent. The dense, rounded rosette of blue-green toothed leaves is distinctive, as is the large stalk with a dense raceme of smallish white flowers at the end. D. wheeleri is the only native Dasylirion in Arizona, and is widely used in landscaping. One other Dasylirion is present in New Mexico; D. leiophyllum can be found it the SE part of the state, and is distinguished by its bright green (not glaucous) leaves with marginal teeth usually pointed toward the base of the leaf. Ethnobotany: Crowns pit-baked, crushed, and fermented for use as a beverage. Stalks roasted, boiled, eaten raw. Stalks used for cradleboard backs, as a source for material for basketry, mats, and for ceremonial purposes. Etymology: Dasylirion comes from the Greek root dasys -shaggy, thick, hairy, rough-, while wheeleri is named for George Wheeler (1842-1905) an early American explorer. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015, AHazelton 2015