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What is Yucca?

Yucca Basics

The mighty yucca (pronounced yuk-ka) plant is commonly found in desert areas such as the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Not to be confused with the yuca (pronounced you-ca) plant from South America, yuccas are a member of the asparagus family, with approximately 50 varied species. Even with so many varieties, they all have some basic characteristics in common.

This plant is an evergreen that can live hundreds of years. Its flowers have a pleasant smell, bloom during the spring and early summer, flowers are tulip-shaped and usually face toward the ground, but for eating the flowers can taste like bitter artichoke.

Yucca leaves are sword shaped, has pointed tips and are mainly green, but may also contain stripes of white, yellow, or cream colors. The plant has a center stalk that can grow up to 6 feet high and has seed pods that deer like to eat.

Environmentally Sustainable

Yucca plants are very hardy plants. In other words, once they are established they can be very difficult to get rid of. The reason for the difficulty points back to one characteristic that makes them so mighty – they have a very deep root system. Unless the entire root is removed it will quite often regrow from even a partial root remnant. Even when harvested the plant will naturally regrow. All parts of the plant can be used so there is no waste, and as long as the harvesting does not progress faster than the growth rate, the natural re-growing of yuccas makes it an environmentally sustainable plant. Thus, yucca is a sustainable source of resveratrol, yuccaols, and saponins.

Used for Hundred of Years

Yucca plants have been used for hundreds of years by Native Americans for a variety of purposes. The seeds, flowers, and asparagus-like stems are considered edible in many species when gathered at just the right time. The sword-like leaves have multiple uses too. The fibers in the leaves have been used to create cordage, and those same dried fibers have a low ignition rate making them useful in starting friction fires. The leaves have also been used as bandages for helping to heal superficial skin wounds. Lastly, the root contains a compound that foams when mixed with water so ground yucca roots have been used by native cultures as a cleanser and has been referred to as soap weed by settlers of the American Southwest.