WILDFLOWERS OF NEW MEXICO

 
 

Unlike many yuccas, this species is easy to identify. It has stout, rigid, sword-like leaves, no trunk (or less than a 12-inch in old specimens), a bloom-stalk within the leaves, and fleshy, banana-shaped fruit. Banana yuccas make popular landscape plants.


FLOWER: April–July. The flower stalk emerges only slightly above the leaves and bears a long, dense, spike-like cluster of creamy-white, fleshy, egg-shaped, flowers 2–5 1/8-inches long (5–13 cm). The fruit matures into a banana-shaped, succulent, 2–9-inch long (5–22 cm) pod that when roasted was an important food item for desert Indians. Variety baccata may have short stems less than 12 inches long.


LEAVES: Basal. Sword-like leaves 12–40-inches long (30–100 cm) by 3/4–2 3/8-inches wide (2–6 cm), grow in a dense rosette and have smooth margins with curling threads, and are tipped with a vicious, 1-inch long (25 mm) needle.


HABITAT: Rocky, sandy soils; desert hills, grasslands, and scrub, pinyon-juniper woodlands.


ELEVATION: 4,200–8,600 feet.


RANGE: AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV, UT, TX.


SIMILAR SPECIES: Other yuccas without stems or trunks have narrow or flexible leaves, and pods that dry into a hard, egg-shaped capsule, or tall bloom stalks (Y. elata) that reach high above the leaves.


NM COUNTIES: In low- to mid-elevation arid habitats statewide except the plains counties of Curry, Lea, Quay, Roosevelt.


NOTES: The versatile yucca plant was an important source of food, fiber, medicine for Native Americans. The flower petals, high in vitamin C, are edible, and the fruit of the soft-fruited species like the Banana Yucca, with the seeds removed, were baked, roasted, dried, and boiled. Fibers from the leaves provided cordage, and the saponin-rich roots were, and still are, prized as a high-quality soap and shampoo.

 

BANANA  YUCCA,  DATIL

YUCCA  BACCATA

Asparagus Family, Asparagaceae (formerly in Agave Family, Agavaceae)

Perennial shrub

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The strong fibers in the leaves were uses for thread, rope, nets, and other utility objects.

When roasted, the succulent fruit was an important food item for desert Indians.

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