This species is closely related to Yucca aloifolia[
Dracaena ensifolia Haw.
Yucca acuminata Sweet
Yucca acutifolia Truff.
Yucca angustifolia Carrière (1859)
Yucca boerhaavii Baker
Yucca ellacombei Baker
Yucca ensifolia Groenland
Yucca eylesii Baker
Yucca falcata auct.
Yucca falcata semicylindrica (Baker) Baker
Yucca flexilis Carrière
Yucca grandis Sprenger
Yucca integerrima Stokes
Yucca japonica Carrière
Yucca longifolia Carrière
Yucca obliqua Haw.
Yucca patens André
Yucca peacockii Baker
Yucca pendula Groenland
Yucca plicata (Carrière) K.Koch
Yucca plicatilis K.Koch
Yucca pruinosa Baker
Yucca recurva Haw.
Yucca recurvifolia Salisb.
Yucca rufocincta Haw.
Yucca semicylindrica Baker
Yucca stenophylla Carrière
Yucca superba Haw.
Yucca tortulata Baker
Common Name: Spanish Dagger
Yucca gloriosa is an evergreen shrubby plant growing 2.5 metres or more tall. The stems can be unbranched or, more commonly, branched, each plant eventually producing a clump of stems[
The plant is cultivated as a fibre crop and medicinal plant in Central America, S France (Mediterranean coast), Algeria, India and on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. It is planted as a living fence in Cuba and is also frequently cultivated as an ornamental in the tropics, subtropics and the warm-temperate zone[
Yucca gloriosa has a wide range and is locally abundant. Even though its habitat and population are experiencing some decline, currently this does not occur at a rate to trigger a threat category. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2020)[
The roots contain saponins[
Although poisonous, saponins also have a range of medicinal applications and many saponin-rich plants are used in herbalism (particularly as emetics, expectorants and febrifuges) or as sources of raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. Saponins are also found in a number of common foods, such as many beans.
Saponins have a quite bitter flavour and are in general poorly absorbed by the human body, so most pass through without harm. They can be removed by carefully leaching in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of raw foods that contain saponins.
Saponins are much more toxic to many cold-blooded creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish and make them easy to catch[
South-eastern N. America - coastal regions of Louisiana, Missisippi, Alabama, north Florida, Georgia, South Carolina
Coastal dunes and sandy soils of coastal plains[
|Other Uses Rating
|Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Yucca gloriosa is a plant of the warm temperate to subtropical zones of southeastern N. America, though it is also often cultivated in the tropics, where it can succeed down to sea level. Plants can tolerate short-lived temperatures down to about -15°c so long as long as the climate is dry[
]. According to another report, the plants can tolerate occasional dips to -25°c[
], but the plants are very subject to injury and decay if the winter is damp or there is lying wet snow[
Thrives in any soil but prefers a sandy loam and full exposure to the sun[
]. Plants are hardier when grown on poor sandy soils[
]. Established plants are very drought resistant[
]. Judging by its native habitat, this plant should tolerate maritime exposure[
], though it does not like cold, drying winds[
A very ornamental plant[
], there are some named varieties[
Plants do not flower every year, requiring hot summers to initiate flowering[
]. The flowers are produced in the autumn and are often damaged by early frosts[
]. The scent of the flowers is most pronounced at night[
Yuccas are pollinated by small, white Yucca moths (Tegeticula yucasella and related species) with which they have a special plant-insect mutualism. At night, the fragrant flowers attract the female moth that feeds on the nectar. She then rolls pollen from the flowers into a ball that is three times the size of her head and carries the pollen ball to the next flower. There, she first lays eggs inside the immature ovary and then deposits the pollen on the flower’s stigma ensuring that seeds will form to feed her progeny. Because the larvae mature before they are able to consume all of
the seeds (60 to 80% of the seeds remain viable), the plants are able to reproduce as well[
]. In regions where the moth cannot live and, if fruit and seed are required, then hand pollination is necessary[
]. This can be quite easily and successfully done using something like a small paint brush.
Individual crowns of the plant are monocarpic, dying after flowering[
]. However, the crown will usually produce a number of sideshoots before it dies and these will grow on to flower and then die in later years[
Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[
Members of this genus seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[
Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is up to 10cm long and 26mm wide[
]. The fruit is very rarely produced in the wild[
Flowers - raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, and can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring[
Flowering stem - cooked and used like asparagus[
Root - cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and made into a bread[
The rhizomes are used for the production of 'Costa Rica arrowroot'[
The fruit is purgative[
]. The fruit has a laxative effect[
The plant is cultivated for the production of steroids in the Crimea and the Caucasus regions[
Many compounds from yucca have been used in the synthesis of new drugs[
The root is detergent[
The roots are antiinflammatory, antitumor, antiviral[
The roots of Yucca species are rich in saponins and medicinally active compounds. The roots, harvested when the plant is not in flower, are used to make a health-promoting drink. It has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, to lower blood pressure and to reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis such as pain, swelling and stiffness. Yucca schidigera seems to be the species most often quoted, though all species contain the saponins[
Taken orally, the root is used in the treatment of osteoarthritis, hypertension, migraine headaches, colitis, stomach disorders, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, poor circulation, and liver and gallbladder disorders[
Applied topically, it is used to treat sores, skin diseases, inflammation, bleeding, sprains, broken limbs, joint pain, baldness, and dandruff[
The plant is grown as a living fence in Cuba[
A fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making cloth, ropes, baskets and mats[
The roots are rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute[
The juice of the plant has a wide variety of uses. In agriculture it is used as a base in liquid fertilizers where its ability to reduce surface tension of irrigation water greatly assists penetration in heavy soils; it assists in soil flocculation to a marked degree; it serves as a carrying agent for the plant-food chemicals[
]. The yucca extract itself is rich in the vital minor elements including boron, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc[
The juice is said to be widely used as a carbon dioxide stabilizer in the control of oil fires, and saponin from yucca is considered a good base for soaps, shampoos, cleansing powders, and tooth pastes and powders[
Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse. Pre-soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water may reduce the germination time. It usually germinates within 1 - 12 months if kept at a temperature of 20°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer and consider giving them some winter protection for at least their first winter outdoors - a simple pane of glass is usually sufficient[
]. Seed is not produced in Britain unless the flowers are hand pollinated.
Root cuttings in late winter or early spring. Lift in mid spring and remove small buds from base of stem and rhizomes. Dip in dry wood ashes to stop any bleeding and plant in a sandy soil in pots in a greenhouse until established[
Cuttings can be made of the tops of old plants. These normally root quite easily in the growing season[