From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Yukka filamentosa.jpg
Yucca filamentosa naturalized in New Zealand
Scientific classification e

See text.


Clistoyucca (Engelm.) Trel.
Samuela Trel.
Sarcoyucca (Engelm.) Linding.[1]

Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the genus comprising species of perennials, shrubs, and trees. For the root vegetable, see Cassava. For other uses, see Yucca (disambiguation).
Yukka filamentosa.jpg
Yucca filamentosa naturalized in New Zealand
Scientific classification e

See text.


Clistoyucca (Engelm.) Trel.
Samuela Trel.
Sarcoyucca (Engelm.) Linding.[1]

Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae.[2] Its 40-50 species are notable for their rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and large terminal panicles of white or whitish flowers. They are native to the hot and dry (arid) parts of North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Early reports of the species were confused with the cassava (Manihot esculenta).[3] Consequently, Linnaeus mistakenly derived the generic name from the Taíno word for the latter, yuca (spelt with a single "c").[4] It is also colloquially known in the lower Midwest United States as "ghosts in the graveyard", as it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards and when in bloom the cluster of (usually pale) flowers on a thin stalk appear as floating apparitions.


Distribution of the capsular fruited species in southwest, midwest USA, Mexico's Baja California and Canada, overview

The natural distribution range of the genus Yucca (49 species and 24 subspecies) covers a vast area of North and Central America. From Baja California in the west, northwards into the southwestern United States, through the drier central states as far north as Alberta in Canada (Yucca glauca ssp. albertana). Yucca is also native to the lowlands and dry beach scrub of the Gulf and South Atlantic states from coastal Texas to easternmost Virginia. To the south, the genus is represented throughout Mexico and extends into Guatemala (Yucca guatemalensis). Yuccas have adapted to an equally vast range of climatic and ecological conditions. They are to be found in rocky deserts and badlands, in prairies and grassland, in mountainous regions, in light woodland, in coastal sands (Yucca filamentosa), and even in subtropical and semitemperate zones, although these are generally arid to semiarid.


Yuccas have a very specialized, mutualistic pollination system, being pollinated by yucca moths (family Prodoxidae); the insect purposefully transfers the pollen from the stamens of one plant to the stigma of another, and at the same time lays an egg in the flower; the moth larva then feeds on some of the developing seeds, always leaving enough seed to perpetuate the species. Although certain species of the Yucca moth have evolved antagonistic features against the plant and do not assist in the plants pollination efforts while continuing to lay their eggs in the plant for protection.[5] Yucca species are the host plants for the caterpillars of the yucca giant-skipper (Megathymus yuccae),[6] ursine giant-skipper (Megathymus ursus),[7] and Strecker's giant-skipper (Megathymus streckeri).[8]

Large Joshua tree with thick trunk at Grapevine Springs Ranch, AZ


Yuccas are widely grown as ornamental plants in gardens. Many species also bear edible parts, including fruits, seeds, flowers, flowering stems,[9] and more rarely roots. References to yucca root as food often stem from confusion with the similarly pronounced, but botanically unrelated, yuca, also called cassava (Manihot esculenta). Roots of soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) are high in saponins and are used as a shampoo in Native American rituals. Dried yucca leaves and trunk fibers have a low ignition temperature, making the plant desirable for use in starting fires via friction.[10] In rural Appalachian areas, species such as Yucca filamentosa are referred to as "meat hangers". The tough, fibrous leaves with their sharp-spined tips were used to puncture meat and knotted to form a loop with which to hang meat for salt curing or in smoke houses.


Yuccas are widely grown as architectural plants providing a dramatic accent to landscape design. They tolerate a range of conditions, but are best grown in full sun in subtropical or mild temperate areas. In gardening centres and horticultural catalogues they are usually grouped with other architectural plants such as cordylines and phormiums.[11]

Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) are protected by law in some states. A permit is needed for wild collection. As a landscape plant, they can be killed by excessive water during their summer dormant phase, so are avoided by landscape contractors.

Several species of yucca can be grown outdoors in mild temperate climates where they are protected from frost. These include:-[11]


The "yucca flower" is the state flower of New Mexico. No species name is given in the citation.


As of February 2012, the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families recognizes 49 species of Yucca and a number of hybrids:[12]

Yucca aloifolia 4.jpgYucca-aloifolia-20071002-2.jpgYucca aloifolia L. (Type species) (syn. Yucca yucatana)Aloe yucca, Spanish bayonet
Yucca angustissima fh 1179.14 AZ B.jpgYucca angustissima Engelm. ex Trel. (including Yucca kanabensis)Narrowleaf yucca, Spanish bayonet
Yucca arkansana fh 1185.30 TX B.jpgYucca arkansana Trel.
Yucca baccata whole.jpgYucca baccata close.jpgYucca baccata Torr. (including Yucca thornberi)Banana yucca, datil
Yucca baileyi.jpgYucca baileyi Wooton & Standl. (syn. Yucca standleyi McKelvey)
Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park.jpgYucca brevifolia flower.jpgYucca brevifolia Engelm.Joshua tree
Yucca campestris fh 1179.82 BB.jpgYucca campestris McKelvey
Yucca capensis fh 0619 Baja California Sur B.jpgYucca capensis L.W.Lenz
Yucca carnerosana fh 1179.26 TX B.jpgYucca carnerosana (Trel.) McKelvey
Yucca cernua fh 1185.31 TX BB.JPGYucca cernua E.L.Keith
Yucca coahuilensis fh 1184.45 TX BB.jpgYucca coahuilensis Matuda & I.L.Pina
Yucca constricta fh 1180.67 TX B.jpgYucca constricta BuckleyBuckley's yucca
Yucca decipiens.jpgYucca decipiens 2.jpgYucca decipiens Trel.Palma China
Yucca declinata Laferr.
Yucca desmetiana.JPGYucca desmetiana Baker
Yucca elata blooming.jpgYucca elata flowers.jpgYucca elata (Engelm.) Engelm.Soaptree yucca
Yucca endlichiana fh 0334 MEX B.jpgYucca endlichiana Trel.
Yucca torreyi fh 1180.18 TX B.jpgYucca faxoniana Sarg. (syn. Yucca torreyi)Torrey yucca
Yukka filamentosa.jpgYucca filamentosa1.jpgYucca filamentosa L.Spoonleaf yucca, Filament yucca, or Adam's Needle
Yucca filifera Monaco.jpgYucca filifera ChabaudPalma Chuna yucca
Yucca flaccida.jpgYucca flaccida Haw.Flaccid leaf yucca
Barcelona 354.JPGYucca gigantea Lem. (syn. Yucca guatemalensis)Spineless yucca
Yucca glauca soapweed MN 2007.JPGYucca glauca Sinijukka VII08 H6193.jpgYucca glauca Nutt.Great Plains yucca
Yucca gloriosa 10.JPGYucca gloriosa L. (including Yucca recurvifolia)Moundlily yucca, Adam's needle, Spanish dagger
Yucca grandiflora fh 0401 MEX B.jpgYucca grandiflora GentrySahuiliqui yucca
Yucca harrimaniae fh 1179.13 UT B.jpgYucca harrimaniae Trel. (syn. Yucca nana)Harriman's yucca
Yucca baileyi subsp. intermedia fh 1179.25 NM B.jpgYucca intermedia McKelveyIntermediate yucca
Yucca jaliscensis.jpgYucca jaliscensis (Trel.) Trel.Izote
Yucca lacandonica fh 0376 MEX B.jpg |Yucca lacandonica Gómez Pompa & J.ValdésTropical yucca
Yucca linearifolia MEX BB.jpgYucca linearifolia Clary
Mexican Blue Yucca, Rio Grande Botanic Garden, Albuquerque NM.jpgYucca luminosa (syn. Yucca rigida)Blue yucca
Yucca madrensis GentrySoco yucca
Yucca mixtecana fh 0380 MEX B.jpgYucca mixtecana García-Mend.
Yucca necopina Shinners
Yucca harrimaniae subsp. neomexicana fh 1180.76 COL B.jpgYucca neomexicana Wooton & Standl.
Yucca pallida.jpgYucca pallida McKelveyPale yucca
Yucca periculosa 1.jpgYucca periculosa BakerIzote
Yucca potosina fh 0388 MEX B.jpgYucca potosina Rzed.
Yucca queretaroensis fh 0335 MEX B.jpgYucca queretaroensis Piña Luján
Yucca reverchonii - Botanischer Garten der Universität Würzburg.JPGYucca reverchonii Trel.
Yucca rostrata.jpgYucca rostrata Engelm. ex Trel.Beaked yucca, Big Bend yucca
Yucca rupicola.jpgYucca rupicola ScheeleTexas yucca, or twist-leaf yucca
Yucca schidigera blooming.jpgYucca schidigera Roezl ex OrtgiesMojave yucca
Monaco.Jardin exotique014.jpgYucca × schottiiHoary yucca or mountain yucca
Yucca harrimanniae subsp. sterilis fh 1179. 78 UT B.jpgYucca sterilis (Neese & S.L.Welsh) S.L.Welsh & L.C.Higgins
Yucca tenuistyla Trel.
Yucca brooklyn.jpgYucca thompsoniana Trel.Thompson's yucca
Yucca treculeana (as Yucca canaliculata) Bot. Mag. 86. t. 5201. 1860..jpgYucca treculeana CarrièreTexas bayonet, Trecul's yucca
Yucca utahensis 4.jpgYucca utahensis 1.jpgYucca utahensis McKelvey
Yucca valida fh 0602 BC B.jpgYucca valida BrandegeeDatilillo

A number of other species previously classified in Yucca are now classified in the genera Dasylirion, Furcraea, Hesperaloe, Hesperoyucca, and Nolina.

Taxonomic arrangement[edit]


In the years from 1897 to 1907, Carl Ludwig Sprenger created and named 122 Yucca hybrids.



  1. ^ "Yucca L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2010-01-19. Retrieved 2010-06-07. 
  2. ^ Chase, M.W.; Reveal, J.L. & Fay, M.F. (2009), "A subfamilial classification for the expanded asparagalean families Amaryllidaceae, Asparagaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae", Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161 (2): 132–136, doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00999.x 
  3. ^ Irish, Gary (2000). Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants: a Gardener's Guide. Timber Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-88192-442-8. 
  4. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. 4 R-Z. Taylor & Francis US. p. 2862. ISBN 978-0-8493-2678-3. 
  5. ^ SEGRAVES, KARI A.; ALTHOFF, DAVID M.; PELLMYR, OLLE (1 Oct 2008). "The evolutionary ecology of cheating: does superficial oviposition facilitate the evolution of a cheater yucca moth?". Ecological Entomology 33 (6): 765–770. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2311.2008.01031.x.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help);
  6. ^ Daniels, Jaret C. "Yucca Giant-Skipper Butterfly, Megathymus yuccae (Boisduval & Leconte) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae)". Electronic Data Information Source. University of Florida IFAS Extension. Retrieved 2010-06-07. 
  7. ^ "Ursine Giant-Skipper Megathymus ursus Poling, 1902". Butterflies and Moths of North America. Retrieved 2010-06-07. 
  8. ^ "Strecker's Giant-Skipper Megathymus streckeri (Skinner, 1895)". Butterflies and Moths of North America. Retrieved 2010-06-07. 
  9. ^ Couplan, François (1998). The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America. McGraw Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-87983-821-8. 
  10. ^ Baugh, Dick (1999). "the Miracle of Fire by Friction". In David Wescott. Primitive Technology: A Book of Earth Skills (10 ed.). pp. 32–33. ISBN 978-0-87905-911-8. 
  11. ^ a b RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964. 
  12. ^ World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2012-02-23 , search for "Yucca"

External links[edit]