Commonly known as the desert spoon, Dasylirion wheeleri is one of the iconic plants of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, its long, thin, strap-like leaves emerging from a central base like a gigantic spiky ball. The first photo shows the flower buds beginning to open along the base of the inflorescence. Most of the flowers will emerge at the tip of the flower stalk, which can become massive—as long as 5 metres—looking similar to the Dasylirion acrotrichum previously featured on Botany Photo of the Day. The second photo shows the habit of a different specimen with a flower spike emerging.
The plant has long been used by local peoples. Its strong fibre was used to make sandals, rope and other articles. Archeological sites have turned up woven artifacts 9,000 years old. Dasylirion was also an important food source. The base of the stem was cooked and pounded into cakes for food as well as made into a potent liquor called sotol. The beverage has remained popular in the area that is now the Mexican state of Chihuahua and now appears to be ready for the world market. Tequila and the Rise of Sotol.