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Yukka filamentosa.jpg
Yucca filamentosa in New Zealand
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Unranked: Angiosperms
Unranked: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Agavaceae
Genus: Yucca

See text.


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

Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the agave family, Agavaceae. 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).[2] Consequently, Linnaeus mistakenly derived the generic name from the Carib word for the latter, yuca.[3] It is also colloquially known in the midwest United States as "Ghosts in the graveyard", as it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards and when in bloom the flowers appear as an apparition floating.


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), and moving east along the Gulf of Mexico, and then north again, through the Atlantic coastal and inland neighbouring states. 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 semi-temperate 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 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. Yucca species are the host plants for the caterpillars of the Yucca Giant-Skipper (Megathymus yuccae),[4] Ursine Giant-Skipper (Megathymus ursus),[5] and Strecker's Giant-Skipper (Megathymus streckeri).[6]


Yuccas are widely grown as ornamental plants in gardens. Many species of yucca also bear edible parts, including fruits, seeds, flowers, flowering stems,[7] and more rarely roots. References to yucca root as food often stem from confusion with the similarly spelled 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.[8]


Yucca are widely planted in the western US as a landscape plant. Most species are generally heat and cold tolerant, requiring little care and low water. They offer a dramatic accent to a landscape design.

Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) are protected by law in some states and should not be wild collected without permit. As a landscape plant, they can be killed by excessive water during their summer dormant phase. For these two reasons they are avoided by landscape contractors.


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

Species Edit

Yucca aloifolia Aloe yucca, Spanish Bayonet
Yucca angustissima Narrowleaf yucca, Spanish Bayonet
120px 120px Yucca brevifolia Joshua tree
Yucca constricta Buckley's yucca
120px 120px Yucca baccata Banana yucca, datil
120px 120px Yucca decipiens Palma China
120px 120px Yucca elata Soaptree yucca
Yukka filamentosa 120px Yucca filamentosa Spoonleaf yucca, Filament yucca, or Adam's Needle
120px Yucca filifera Palma Chuna yucca
120px Yucca flaccida Flaccid leaf yucca
120px 120px Yucca glauca Great Plains yucca
Yucca gloriosa Moundlily yucca, Adam's needle, Spanish Dagger
Yucca grandiflora Sahuiliqui yucca
120px Yucca guatemalensis Spineless yucca
Yucca harrimaniae Harriman's yucca
Yucca intermedia Intermediate Yucca
Yucca jaliscensis Izote
Yucca kanabensis Kanab yucca
Yucca lacandonica Tropical yucca
Yucca madrensis Soco yucca
Yucca nana Dwarf yucca
120px Yucca pallida Pale yucca
Yucca periculosa Izote
Yucca recurvifolia Curve-leaf yucca
Yucca rigida Blue yucca
120px Yucca rostrata Beaked yucca, Big Bend yucca
120px Yucca rupicola Texas yucca, or Twist-leaf yucca
120px Yucca schidigera Mojave yucca
Yucca schottii Hoary yucca or Mountain yucca
Yucca standleyi
120px Yucca thompsoniana Thompson's Yucca
Yucca thornberi
Yucca torreyi Torrey yucca
Yucca treculiana Texas bayonette, Trecul's yucca
Yucca valida Datilillo
Yucca yucatana Yucatan yucca

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

Taxonomic arrangementEdit


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

References Edit

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