Science notes


YUCCA - Yucca sp. Adam's Needle, Adamsnadel, Amole, Bare Grass, Palmlilie, Sisal String, Soaproot, Soapweed, Socol, Spanish Bayonet. Russian: Yukka. Takic: Ku-ku-ul. Yucca is only pollinated by a night flying species of moth, Pronuba. Only the yucca flower can serve as food for the young. The existence of thousands or millions of symbiotic relationships between organisms makes the probability of evolution even less than if these symbiotic relationships did not exist. The probability that all of these organisms evolved together is much less than if a single species developed in isolation.

The flowers and stalk of various species are edible. They are good in salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing. I like them fresh off the plant. They can be used in stews. The stalks are rich in sugar. The seed pods or large pulpy fruits are edible raw, roasted, mashed, or cooked, sliced, and dried for storage. The fruit is knocked off the plant with long sticks; it will not fall easily until it is ripe enough to eat. Rub the skin off yucca stalks with Barley (Hordeum jubatum). Yucca roots are edible roasted.

Young shoots are boiled and mashed, and the juice is cooked again until it becomes a winelike red liquid, and then drunk as a stimulant. A tea of the root or leaf is good for arthritis and bone spurs, and a tea of the flowers helps dissolve tumors; it is considered good for cancer. The plant may be used in capsules. Root stalk tea alleviates heartburn. Yucca seeds are purgative.

Strip off thin pieces along the leaf and twist or tie them together to make cordage similar to jute. It is used for making rope, baskets, mats, sandals and moccasins, bracelets and necklaces, cloth, sifting baskets loosely woven for drying food in the sun, to tie tamales and other dishes cooked in corn husks, and can be combined with Douglas fir sprigs. One can also soak and baste the stalks until the pulp and sheath are gone. They were buried in mud to whiten them and then combed out. The best fibers come from A. deserti. The fibers can be used for sewing. Cut off most of the fibers from the point, and use the point as a needle, already threaded. The rootstock is called Amole. Yucca soap, also called Amole, comes from the trunk and roots of all species. Cut the trunk into strips with small cross sections; hit them with a heavy rock a few times to soften them. This breaks the fibers and releases the soapy sap. Scrape it or rub it vigorously between your hands. It does not lather much but cleans well. Or, put the dried crushed roots in a bag and stir it in lukewarm water until there are suds. Cut into 1" thin slices, dry, and run through a grinder. Sift out the white powder. Mix it with water to desired strength, filter, and use it for washing woolens or as shampoo. Sagebrush can be added to the shampoo to make the hair smell good, grow well, and prevent it from falling out. Yucca is said to stimulate hair growth. Sick people were washed all over their bodies in yucca lather. Although this was part of a ceremony of healing, it makes scientific sense. The suds are also used to wash and soften hides prior to tanning. The plant is used to make pitch for waterproofing baskets, or to coat bullroarers. The dried flower stalks are used as the hearth in a set of tools for starting a fire by the bow and drill method. A smaller piece is used as the drill. Brushes made of yucca are used to decorate pottery using colored clay. The plant is also used to make drumsticks. The juice is used to make dye and paint. The flowers are a browse plant. These plants are used as an ornamental. Originally the genus name Yucca was applied by the Carib Indians of South America to the Cassava, from which comes tapioca, because of the similarity of the roots. The flowers of all species are cream colored. These are used as ornamental shrubs.

Y. angustissima: Banana Plant, Bear Grass, Fineleaf Yucca, Indian Cabbage, Mesa Yucca, Narrowleaf Yucca, Pamilla, Soapweed. Diné: Tsa'aszi'ts'ooz "Narrow yucca", Talawosh, "Water suds" (the root), Nidoodloho, "Green fruit", Nideeshjiin, "Stalk black" (the young stalk), Nideesgai, "Stalk white" (the older stalk). Flower buds roasted in ashes for 15 minutes are edible, as are leaves boiled with salt. The fruit is edible and tastes something like dates. It may be roasted in ashes, eaten raw, or sliced and dried for winter. The crushed fruit is used to make goat's cheese. The plant is used in childbirth. Soak the roots in water, strain, and give to a woman to ease labor. A cupful of suds and sugar helps deliver the afterbirth.

Y. baccata (Y. bacata, arizonica, confinis, thornberi, treleasei): Amole, Banana Yucca, Blue Yucca, Broad Leafed Yucca, Datil, Datil Yucca, Indian Banana, Mountain Yucca, Palmilla Ancha, Soapweed, Spanish Bayonet, Spanish Dagger, Thick Leafed Yucca, Wide Leafed Yucca, Wild Date. Diné: Tschaaszintxyeelih "yucca-wide", Xackaan "syrup, molasses". Maya: laatiro. Seri: Hamat. The large, ripe fleshy seed pod, is sweet like custard. Do not eat it until it is ripe. It can be eaten raw, cooked, sweetened, stewed, or made into jelly. They can be cut in half and dried, for winter or hikes. They can be baked on hot coals or stones. Do not eat the seeds; they are highly laxative. The seeds are 28.5% oil and 14.4% protein. When the pods are ripe, if you dry them on a flat stone by the fire, the seeds will fall out and they can be ground and made into cakes, which are roasted again. They can be ground into meal. They are dried and broken up and perforated so they will not sour, and stored for the winter. These can then be broken further and mixed with water to make a thick syrup which is eaten with other foods. They can be boiled to make a gruel. The flowers are edible. The pulverized leaves, added to water, are used to relieve vomiting, and the lather is used to relieve heartburn. The plant contains between 0 and 1.1% sarsapogenin. Birds and insects like the ripe seed pods.

Y. brevifolia (Y. draconis, arborescens, Clistoyucca a., b.): Joshua Tree. This is an indicator plant of the Mojave Desert. It is said that it does not occur naturally in the Sonoran Desert, but I have seen it. The flower buds are edible hot or cold after roasting. The Indians made red dye from the rootlets. The wood can be used to make fence posts.

Y. elata (Y. ellata, angustifolia, radiosa, utahensis, verdiensis, kanabensis, glauca) : Beargrass, Indian Cabbage, Mesa Yucca, Narrow Leaved Soaproot, Narrow Leaved Soapweed, Palmillo, Pamilla, Plains Yucca, Soaptree Yucca, Soapwell, Soap-Weed, Soapweed, Spanish Bayonet. Diné: Pitshaaszi "God, his yucca", Tshaaszitsooz "yucca-narrow". The stems can be baked, and the blossoms, minus the bitter centers, can be cooked and eaten. The young flower stalks are edible. The flowers are edible raw or cooked as a potherb. Check them for insects before cooking or eating them. The seed pods and seeds are edible when they are young, raw or baked in ashes. They can be sliced, dried, and stored. They taste similar to banana. When the seed pods are dry, they will rattle. The chopped stems can be mixed with cottonseed meal. This is an emergency source of food for livestock. The mature seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals. The flowers are browsed.

The suds are used as soap and shampoo. The dried flower stalks are particularly useful for starting fires using the bow and drill method. The leaves make good fiber. The dried crushed trunk yields soap. The plant is used to make 102 counting sticks which the Diné used for the Moccasin Game. These plants are used for making paper, and jute class fiber is derived from them. From the flowers can be obtained green dye, and also if mixed with alum and copper. Chrome and tin give gold. Iron gives tan. This plant is used as cattle feed.

Y. elephantipes: Yucá. Exotic. The fruit is edible roasted, cooked, fresh, in pies, and when sliced ripe and then dried. The fresh flower buds are edible. The fibers are used in baskets.

Y. grandiflora: Datil. Maya: laatiro. Warihio: Sahuiliqui. This plant is closely related to Y. arizonica. The fruit is edible raw or roasted, and sweet. They are bitter until ripe, when the flesh becomes soft.

Y. madrensis: Soco. This species resembles Y. schottii and Y. jaliscensis. It is probably conspecific with Y. rigida. The roots are used for soap, and the green fruit is edible. The roots contain _.025% sapogenin and 1.5% smilogenin. It is an ornamental.

Y. rigida. Socol. The young immature fruits are edible.

Y. schidigera (Y. mohavensis, shidigera): Datil, Datillo, Mojave Yucca, Soapweed, Spanish Bayonet, Spanish Dagger. Kamia: Shahah. Maya: laatiro. Serrano: Choonkt. Takic: Hunuvat, Hu-nu-vut. Nin-yil, Ninyily: the fruit. The flower stalks are edible just before the bud opens, and are roasted or boiled and the outler layer removed. The unripe fruit can be eaten roasted, and the ripe fruit raw. The roots are used as a laxative. The leaf fibers are used to make sandals, cords, baskets, cloth, and saddle mats, called Coca. The "bark" is used for soap.

Y. schottii (Y. macrocarpa): Hoary Yucca, Spanish Dagger. This is a cultivar.

Y. torreyi: Torrey Yucca. The fruits are edible raw or roasted, or ground into meal. The meal can be stored for winter.

Y. valida: Datilillo "little date", Tree Yucca. The buds are edible raw. The black ripened fruits are boiled or roasted and eaten. The flowers are cooked and ground for candy, called Colache. The flower bud tea is used for diabetes and rheumatism. The rootstock is called Amole and is used to make soap and to soften hides. The fibers are used to make sandals. The stalk is shredded and used in mattresses. The trunk makes a living fence. The wood is used to build corrals and fences, and roof supports in ramadas and small houses.

Y. whipplei (Y. californica, ortgesiana, graminifolia, newberryi, peninsularis, Hesperoyucca w., Agave striata, recurva, echinoides, falcata, paucifolia, california, stricta, echinoides, dasylirioides, dealbata, intrepida): Chaparral Yucca, Datil, Espadin, Espadillo, Foothills Yucca, Guapilla, Lechuguilla, Our Lord's Candle, Quijote Plant, Quijotes, Quixote Plant, Rabo de León, Soyate, Sotolito, Spanish Bayonet, Whipple Yucca. Costanoan: Saho. Diné: Heii pitshaaszi "God, his yucca". Gabrielino: Ahko. Kamia: Ahkoochl. Kawaiisu: Kwinnoorubbah, Kwehoodeba. Kitanemuk: Omots. Luiseño: Pannahahl. Maya: laatiro. Paiute: Samahvip. Salinan: Triyahs. Serrano: Omoot. Takic: Pa-nu-ul, Panu'ul. Wa-wal: the seed bags. Tubatulabal: Kweyet. This plant resembles the Joshua Tree. The flower buds of A. stricta are cooked and eaten with eggs. The flowers smell faintly like dill. The flowers of Y. schidigera, Y. schottii, and this species are fragrant and attract insects. The stalk can be roasted and eaten, and the seed bags and flowers are edible. Toast the flowers or cook them in water, or serve the petals in salads. The young buds are edible fried. The heart can be roasted three days and eaten. The base of the Baja variety is edible, and animals browse the flowers. The plant can be cut apart and the juice extracted, as emergency water. The fiber is used, and it is a hedge and fence plant. This is an ornamental. The flowers are creamy white. The plant cannot be foraged.

Y. sp. This is a Sonoran species, with fruit that tastes like bananas and which is eaten by the Warihio. Another species, called Ku-ku-ul by the Takic, has a head and stalk which are edible roasted.

Science Notes