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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Agavaceae

3. Dasylirion Zuccarini, Allg. Gartenzeitung. 6: 258. 1838.

Sotol [Greek dasy-, thick- or dense-, and lirion, white lily, alluding to the compact arrangement of flowers in the inflorescence]

David J. Bogler

Plants perennial, polycarpic; roots spreading, 2–8 mm diam. Stems short or elongate, often with erect or reclining trunk. Leaves persistent, numerous, forming rosettes, spreading; blade long-linear, fibrous, glabrous, sometimes waxy-glaucous, bases expanded, overlapping, spoon-shaped, margins with sharp, curved prickles, apex fibrous. Inflorescences paniculate, racemose, bracteate; panicles narrow, borne on long, woody stalks; bracts leaflike proximally, stramineous distally, lanceolate; fascicles of dense racemes in axils of bracts. Flowers small, functionally unisexual, some plants with only male flowers, others with only female flowers; floral bracts laciniate, membranous; tepals 6, distinct, whitish, greenish, or purple, obovate, margins denticulate; stamens 6, rudimentary in pistillate flowers; ovary superior, 3-angled, abortive in staminate flowers; style short, ± strap-shaped, slightly expanded at tip; stigma 3-lobed, lobes weakly connate into tube; pedicel of pistillate flowers articulate. Fruits capsular, 1-locular, dry, indehiscent, 3-winged. Seed 1, golden brown, 3-angled, turbinate. x = 19.

Species 17 (3 in the flora): arid, mountainous regions of sw United States and Mexico.

Dasylirion was once a major food source in the desert southwest. The bulbs were roasted in rock-lined pits and pounded into cakes. A potent alcoholic beverage, known as “sotol,” is distilled from the baked and fermented bulbs. Leaves of Dasylirion are widely used to weave baskets.


Bogler, D. J. 1994. Taxonomy and Phylogeny of Dasylirion (Nolinaceae). Ph.D. dissertation. University of Texas. Trelease, W. 1911. The desert group Nolineae. Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc. 50: 404–443.

1 Leaves whitish or bluish green, waxy-glaucous, papillose, dull; marginal prickles all antrorse; fascicles of flowers elongate, branches lateral, pendent, 10–20 cm from base to tip; capsules obovoid, 5–8 × 4–5(–7) mm, distal wing lobes 2–2.5 mm, often indented; Arizona, New Mexico, extreme w Texas.   1 Dasylirion wheeleri
+ Leaves bright green, glabrous, not waxy, smooth, shiny; marginal prickles antrorse, retrorse, or mix of both; fascicles of flowers short, condensed, branches mostly basal, not pendent, 5–12 cm from base to tip; capsules ellipsoid or obovoid, 5–7 × 4–5 mm, distal wing lobes less than 2 mm, rounded, not indented; New Mexico, Texas.   (2)
2 (1) Majority of prickles antrorse; leaves 1–2 cm wide; capsules ellipsoid, 5.5–6 × 4–5 mm, distal wing lobes 1–1.5 mm; s edge of Edwards Plateau, Texas.   2 Dasylirion texanum
+ Majority of leaf prickles retrorse; leaves 1.5–3 cm wide; capsules ellipsoid to obovoid, 6–7 × 4–4.5 mm, distal wing lobes 1.5–2 mm; sw Texas, s New Mexico.   3 Dasylirion leiophyllum

Lower Taxa


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