Exotic Plants: History and Lore of the Yucca Plant

I just recently picked up several Yucca plants, one that is more than 25 years old, over four foot tall and beautiful. It’s a plant that I have wanted for a while but haven’t seen while I was plant shopping so it hadn’t made it to my gardens or yard. One my one plant foraging runs I was lucky enough to pick up the plants.

The Yucca plant has a wild and exotic look; it is part of the lily family although by looking at it you would not guess this. There are over 40 plant varieties that grow in the United States and are considered more of a wild plant. However, homeowners have adopted them as a landscape addition. In my zone 5 the yucca known as “Adams Needle” is the variety that will grow in this climate.

The plant has a desert like look with sharp spiny leaves.  It is told that many years ago Yuccas were once planted outside a window to discourage any “peeping Toms.” I am not sure if this is true but it makes a nice story.

American Indians used for soap. The green pods are said to be edible. There have been stories about how the Native women washed their white garments by using the root.

According to the history the green gourd and soapwort were more to their liking but there are times you use what you have available. At the earliest of times they spread their clothing on rocks, rubbed them with a piece of yucca cut big enough to fit into their hand like a bar of soap, and then washed the clothing to brilliant cleanliness.

The white yucca blossoms, which are stunning but only last a short time, can be dropped into vinegar and will keep. This mixture can be used as a hair rinse, by mixing one ounce of the mixture to 8 ounces of water.

The Yucca is a very hardy plant as spreads by a thick root. Shoots will form on this root and can be cut off to form another plant. The plant also has fibrous threads on the leaves that can be pulled out. These threads can be used to make rope.

One of the most unusual aspects of the Yucca is that is pollinated by the yucca moth. If the moth is not present in the area where the yucca grows it must be hand pollinated or it will not produce seeds.

The Yucca will be a welcome addition to the gardens. I will enjoy watching it grow and become part of my garden.

Tags: yucca plant, yucca plant uses, plant lore, plant history

2 Comments

  1. Hi Denise!
    I’m not certain of the difference between the yuccas that grow up here and the yuccas that grow here in Florida, but one thing I’m sure of. Some of these that grow here would not only discourage peeping toms, but could, and are reputed to, prevent burglars from climbing in your windows, if planted below them. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could get over them. These plants are so enormous, and the spines so long, hard, and sharply pointed, that I am positive you could kill a person with one of them. Some varieties are not allowed to be grown in public places, where a person could stumble or trip and fall on them, because one could definitely die from the injury. I’m not kidding.
    les

  2. Les, these are the same kind, but in Pa they don’t get quite so large and hardy. The winters keep them somewhat tamed. And yes they can b quite the plant! Thanks for stopping by, Denise

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