Yucca elata

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soaptree or palmella
Yucca elata blooming.jpg
Large soaptree yucca
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus: Yucca
Species: Y. elata
Binomial name
Yucca elata
Engelm.
Yucca elata range map.jpg
Natural range
Synonyms[1]
Flowers

Yucca elata is a perennial plant, with common names that include soaptree, soapweed, and palmella.[2][3] It is native to southwestern North America, in the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert in the United States (western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona), southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, and northern Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora, Nuevo León).[4][5]

Description[edit]

This plant grows from 1.2-4.5 m tall, with a sparsely branched trunk. The trunk is brown, cylindrical in shape and has a small diameter and often has holes drilled by escaping yucca moth larvae. The leaves are arranged in a dense spiral whorl at the apex of the stems, each leaf 25–95 cm long and very slender, 0.2-1.3 cm broad. The white, bell-shaped flowers grow in a dense cluster on a slender stem at the apex of the stem, each flower 32–57 mm long, creamy white, often tinged pinkish or greenish.[6][7][8]

The soaptree yucca's fruit is a capsule 4–8 cm long and 2–4 cm broad, maturing brown in summer, when it splits into three sections to release the black seeds. They do not flower every year.[5]

Ecology[edit]

These plants fare best in dry, semi-desert conditions. They are very cold-hardy, but need lots of sunlight.[9]

Yucca elata in White Sands, New Mexico

Subspecies[edit]

There are three subordinate taxa are sometimes recognized, although sources differ as to whether these should be considered varieties or subspecies:[5][10]

  • Yucca elata ssp. elata. Capsules large, 5–8 cm; leaves long, 30–95 cm. Throughout the species' range.
  • Yucca elata ssp. verdiensis. Capsules small, 4-4.5 cm; leaves short, 25–45 cm. Arizona only.
  • Yucca elata ssp. utahensis.

Cultivation[edit]

Yucca elata and its subspecies are winter-hardy in central Europe.

Uses[edit]

Native Americans used the fiber of the soaptree yucca's leaves to make sandals, belts, cloth, baskets, cords, and mats, among other items. Inside the trunk and roots of the plant is a soapy substance high in saponins. In the past, this substance was commonly used as soap and shampoo, which was used to treat dandruff and hairloss. At least one tribe, the Zuni, used a mixture of soap made from yucca sap and ground aster to wash newborn babies to stimulate hair growth. The Apaches also use yucca leaf fibers to make dental floss and rope. In times of drought ranchers have used the plant as an emergency food supply for their cattle.

References[edit]

A dry opened seed pod of yucca elata, with some seeds remaining
  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". 
  2. ^ Common names of yucca species
  3. ^ "USDA GRIN Taxonomy". 
  4. ^ Biota of North America Project, Yucca elata
  5. ^ a b c Flora of North America: Yucca elata
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ Fritz Hochstätter (Hrsg.): Yucca (Agavaceae). Band 3 Mexico , Selbst Verlag, 2004. ISBN 3-00-013124-8
  9. ^ Yucca plant care
  10. ^ Tropicos, Yucca elata

External links[edit]