Plant of the Month: Texas Sotol
Texas Sotol is an attractive desert perennial often mistaken for a yucca. It has a long, dark bluish-green blade-like leaves with sharp, toothed edges. Its basal leaves grow 3′ – 4′ tall. In early summer it sends up a 9′-15′ flower stalk, bearing a 2′-3′ spike of yellowish flowers at the end. Sotol occurs in Central and West Texas in various habitats from prairies and plains to flat desert areas. It needs full sun, good drainage and is very drought tolerant.
The dried flower stalks have been used as a renewable building material for temporary corrals, etc., and the leaves have been used for thatching and also to make baskets. Native Americans and early Texas settlers used Sotol as a food source. The bulb like root was cooked, sun dried and then ground into a flour, which, when mixed with water, was formed into little cakes that were baked. In times of drought the heart of the plant splits open, exposing the soft interior, providing food for deer and javalenas.
Sotol is a good xeriscape plant for rock gardens. It combines naturally with rocks, curly mesquite grass, and low-growing drought-tolerant plants such as damianita and blackfoot daisy. Linheimer muhly is a nice contrast when planted nearby. Give it plenty of room to show at its best. Sotol makes a great barrier plant and is a good substitute for Pampas grass. It can be grown in large containers. Removed old flower stalks at the base. It is highly deer resistant.
Note: Crossvine is a NPSOT NICE! selection for Summer 2014.
Text by John Siemssen. Photos by Joseph A. Marcus, Wildflower Center