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 the Americas and the Caribbean.

Yucca filamentosa.jpg
Yucca filamentosa naturalized in New Zealand
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus: Yucca

See text


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.[4] The Aztecs living in Mexico since before the Spanish arrival, in Nahuatl, call the local yucca species (Yucca gigantea) iczotl, which gave the Spanish izote.[5][6] Izote is also used for Yucca filifera.[7]


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

The natural distribution range of the genus Yucca (49 species and 24 subspecies) covers a vast area of the Americas. The genus is represented throughout Mexico and extends into Guatemala (Yucca guatemalensis). It also extends to the north through Baja California in the west, northwards into the southwestern United States, through the drier central states as far north as southern Alberta in Canada (Yucca glauca ssp. albertana).

Yucca is also native northward to the coastal lowlands and dry beach scrub of the coastal areas of the southeastern United States, along the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic States from coastal Texas to Maryland.

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 semi-arid.


Yuccas have a very specialized, mutualistic pollination system; being pollinated by yucca moths (family Prodoxidae); the insect 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. Certain species of the yucca moth have evolved antagonistic features against the plant. They do not assist in the plant's pollination efforts while continuing to lay their eggs in the plant for protection.[8]

Yucca species are the host plants for the caterpillars of the yucca giant-skipper (Megathymus yuccae),[9] ursine giant-skipper (Megathymus ursus),[10] and Strecker's giant-skipper (Megathymus streckeri).[11]

Large Joshua tree with thick trunk at Grapevine Springs Ranch, AZ
Purplish fruits of Yucca aloifolia.

Beetle herbivores include yucca weevils, in the Curculionidae.


Yuccas are widely grown as ornamental plants in gardens. Many species also bear edible parts, including fruits, seeds, flowers, flowering stems,[12] and more rarely roots. References to yucca root as food often arise from confusion with the similarly pronounced, but botanically unrelated, yuca, also called cassava or manioc (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. The stem (when dried) that sports the flowers is often used in collaboration with a sturdy piece of cedar for fire-making.[13] In rural Appalachian areas, species such as Yucca filamentosa are referred to as "meat hangers." With their sharp-spined tips, the tough, fibrous leaves were used to puncture meat and knotted to form a loop with which to hang meat for salt curing or in smokehouses. The fibers can be used to make cordage, be it sewing thread or rope.[citation needed]

Yucca extract is also used as a foaming agent in some beverages such as root beer and soda.[14][15]


The flower petals are commonly eaten in Central America, but its reproductive organs (the anthers and ovaries) are first removed because of their bitterness.[16] The petals are blanched for 5 minutes, and then cooked a la mexicana (with tomato, onion, chili) or in tortitas con salsa (egg-battered patties with green or red sauce). In Guatemala, they are boiled and eaten with lemon juice.[16]

In El Salvador, the tender tips of stems are eaten and known locally as cogollo de izote.[16]


The most common houseplant yucca is Yucca gigantea.[17]

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.[18]

Several species of yucca can be grown outdoors in temperate climates, including:-[18]


The yucca flower is the state flower of New Mexico in the southwest United States. No species name is given in the citation; however, the New Mexico Centennial Blue Book from 2012 references the soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) as one of the more widespread species in New Mexico.[N 1]

The Yucca flower is also the national flower of El Salvador, where it is known as flor de izote.[19]


As of February 2012, the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families recognizes 49 species of Yucca and several hybrids:[20]

Plant Flowers Species name Common name
    Yucca aloifolia L. (Type species) (syn. Yucca yucatana) Aloe yucca, Spanish bayonet
    Yucca angustissima Engelm. ex Trel. (including Yucca kanabensis) Narrowleaf yucca, Spanish bayonet
    Yucca arkansana Trel.
    Yucca baccata Torr. (including Yucca thornberi) Banana yucca, datil
    Yucca baileyi Wooton & Standl. (syn. Yucca standleyi McKelvey)
    Yucca brevifolia Engelm. Joshua tree
  Yucca campestris McKelvey
  Yucca capensis L.W.Lenz
  Yucca carnerosana (Trel.) McKelvey
    Yucca cernua E.L.Keith
  Yucca coahuilensis Matuda & I.L.Pina
  Yucca constricta Buckley Buckley's yucca
    Yucca decipiens Trel. Palma china
  Yucca declinata Laferr.
  Yucca desmetiana Baker
    Yucca elata (Engelm.) Engelm. Soaptree yucca
    Yucca endlichiana Trel.
  Yucca faxoniana Sarg. (syn. Yucca torreyi) Torrey yucca
    Yucca filamentosa L. Spoonleaf yucca, filament yucca, or Adam's needle
    Yucca filifera Chabaud Palma china
  Yucca flaccida Haw. Flaccid leaf yucca
    Yucca gigantea Lem. (syn. Yucca guatemalensis) Spineless yucca
    Yucca glauca Nutt. Great Plains yucca
  Yucca gloriosa L. (including Yucca recurvifolia) Moundlily yucca, Adam's needle, Spanish dagger
  Yucca grandiflora Gentry Sahuiliqui yucca
    Yucca harrimaniae Trel. (syn. Yucca nana) Harriman's yucca
  Yucca intermedia McKelvey Intermediate yucca
  Yucca jaliscensis (Trel.) Trel. Izote
  Yucca lacandonica Gómez Pompa & J.Valdés Tropical yucca
  Yucca linearifolia Clary
    Yucca luminosa (syn. Yucca rigida) Blue yucca
  Yucca madrensis Gentry Soco yucca
  Yucca mixtecana García-Mend.
Yucca necopina Shinners
  Yucca neomexicana Wooton & Standl. New Mexican Spanish bayonet
  Yucca pallida McKelvey Pale yucca
  Yucca periculosa Baker Izote
  Yucca potosina Rzed.
  Yucca queretaroensis Piña Luján
  Yucca reverchonii Trel.
    Yucca rostrata Engelm. ex Trel. Beaked yucca, Big Bend yucca
  Yucca rupicola Scheele Texas yucca, or twist-leaf yucca
    Yucca schidigera Roezl ex Ortgies Mojave yucca
  Yucca × schottii Hoary yucca or mountain yucca
  Yucca sterilis (Neese & S.L.Welsh) S.L.Welsh & L.C.Higgins
Yucca tenuistyla Trel.
    Yucca thompsoniana Trel. Thompson's yucca
    Yucca treculeana Carrière Texas bayonet, Trecul's yucca
    Yucca utahensis McKelvey
  Yucca valida Brandegee Datilillo

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


From 1897 to 1907, Carl Ludwig Sprenger created and named 122 Yucca hybrids.



  1. ^ No species name is listed in state statutes, however the New Mexico Centennial Blue Book from 2012 references the soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) as one of the more widespread species in New Mexico.


  1. ^ "Yucca L." Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2010-01-19. Archived from the original on 2010-05-30. 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. Vol. 4 R-Z. Taylor & Francis US. p. 2862. ISBN 978-0-8493-2678-3.
  5. ^ ASALE, RAE-; RAE. "izote | Diccionario de la lengua española". «Diccionario de la lengua española» - Edición del Tricentenario (in Spanish). Retrieved 2021-11-23.
  6. ^ "Yucca gigantea Spineless yucca, Izote PFAF Plant Database". pfaf.org. Retrieved 2021-11-23.
  7. ^ Guillot Ortiz, Daniel (2009). El género Yucca L. en España. Piet van der Meer. Jaca: Jolube. p. 55. ISBN 978-84-937291-8-9. OCLC 1123383406.
  8. ^ Segraves, Kari A.; Althoff, David M. & Pellmyr, Olle (1 October 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. S2CID 55871573.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Ursine Giant-Skipper Megathymus ursus Poling, 1902". Butterflies and Moths of North America. Archived from the original on 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  11. ^ "Strecker's Giant-Skipper Megathymus streckeri (Skinner, 1895)". Butterflies and Moths of North America. Archived from the original on 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  12. ^ Couplan, François (1998). The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America. McGraw Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-87983-821-8.
  13. ^ Baugh, Dick (1999). "the Miracle of Fire by Friction". In David Wescott (ed.). Primitive Technology: A Book of Earth Skills (10 ed.). pp. 32–33. ISBN 978-0-87905-911-8.
  14. ^ "Yucca: Health Benefits, Side Effects, Uses, Dose & Precautions". RxList. Retrieved 2023-01-28.
  15. ^ "FOAMATION". www.ingredion.com. Retrieved 2023-01-28.
  16. ^ a b c Pieroni, Andrea (2005). Prance, Ghillean; Nesbitt, Mark (eds.). The Cultural History of Plants. Routledge. p. 33. ISBN 0415927463.
  17. ^ "Yucca: the November 2020 Houseplant of the Month". December 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ a b RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  19. ^ "maquilishuat tree | plant | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2021-11-23.
  20. ^ World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2012-02-23, search for "Yucca"
  • Fritz Hochstätter (Hrsg.): Yucca (Agavaceae). Band 1 Dehiscent-fruited species in the Southwest and Midwest of the USA, Canada, and Baja California , Selbst Verlag, 2000. ISBN 3-00-005946-6
  • Fritz Hochstätter (Hrsg.): Yucca (Agavaceae). Band 2 Indehiscent-fruited species in the Southwest, Midwest, and East of the USA, Selbst Verlag. 2002. ISBN 3-00-009008-8
  • Fritz Hochstätter (Hrsg.): Yucca (Agavaceae). Band 3 Mexico , Selbst Verlag, 2004. ISBN 3-00-013124-8

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