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What is Dasylirion?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2016
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Dasylirion is a general term for 17 flowering plant species that belong to the Ruscacea family in the order Asparagales. All of these species are naturally found in Mexico, while there are also three that are found in the southwestern United States. These plants are also referred to as bear grass, though it is not an actual grass.

The genus Dasylirion is characterized by the plants’ thorny, thick, and plastic-like leaves that resemble those of the cycads. Although there are more than a dozen species, only about six of these species are commonly seen and grown. They are used as ornamental plants and may be cultivated either in a garden or vase.

These plants have similarities with the species under the genus Agave. In fact, before the Dasylirions were classified in the family Ruscaceae, they were in the same family as the Agaves and Furcraeas. As of 2010, this genus belongs to the same family as the Nolinas, Beaurcarneas, and Sansevierias.

Three of the most cultivated plants in this genus are D. acrotrichum, D. longissimum, and D. wheeleri. The aforementioned plants are also known by the common names green desert spoon, Mexican grass tree, and sotol, respectively. These species are propagated by planting the seeds into dry soil. The species in this group of plants may grow under full sunlight or in the shade.

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These plants have been eaten and used in the preparation of drinks in the past. In fact, sotol, the alcoholic beverage, was made from Dasylirion roots. As of 2010, the plants are typically used in landscaping and are often preferred for their symmetry and tolerance of the sun's heat.

In a hot and dry climate, these plants grow without requiring much protection and care. They may also grow in cold or moist climates, yet they need soils that drain well. One must monitor them carefully, though, because they may rot in these conditions.

Found naturally in the deserts, these plants will grow without needing to be watered often. Watering the plants will do no harm as long as the water is not poured directly on its crown. Rain water has little damaging effect to the plants compared to pouring tap water on them.

Although the Dasylirions are drought tolerant, they may die in extremely airy and dry soils. In such environments, the plants become easy to uproot. Their roots also tend to shrink and will later cause them to die off.

Dasylirions are dioecious, which means that these plants may be male or female. Both genders of flowers cannot be found in the same plant, though. Its flower stalks sprout tall, which can make the plant a prominent part of a garden. Depending on the species, the flowers of the Dasylirion are usually yellow, red, or green.

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