Soaptree Yucca

DESCRIPTION: Shrub. The soaptree yucca grows in the Chihuahua and Sonora deserts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It grows in dry desert climates. The soaptree yucca resembles a palm tree with its fan like leaves. The leaves grow to be about 1-3 inches long and about a ½-inch wide. The yucca leaves are triangular and thick and grow near the base of the yucca plant. A long stem protrudes from the middle of the palm-like branches. The stem produces clusters white flowers that grow from May to July. The yucca also produces large brown capsules. They ripen during the summer and produce several smaller black seeds. The soaptree yucca generally does not bloom every year. The pollination is done exclusively by the pronuba moth. The soaptree yucca is the only plant the pronuba moth pollinates. The black seeds the yucca produce feed the moth larvae.

Humans have used the soaptree yucca for a very long time. Today yuccas have many uses including, decoration and herbal remedy.
Non-medicinal Uses: One of the most important uses for this plant comes directly from its name. This yucca has been dubbed the soaptree yucca because of the soapy substance found within its roots. Native Americans were the first to use the soaps. They used the soap to wash their hair, bodies and clothes. They also noticed its ability to relieve sunburn and minor inflammation from scratches and cuts. Cattle ranchers would sometimes use the soap to feed their cattle during draught as an emergency food. Every part of the yucca plant can be used. Native tribes use parts of the plant for several activities including; basket weaving, sandals, ropes, belts, crafts, food, and dyes for rugs, fibers and art. The buds, flowers and stalks are edible, raw or cooked.
Medicinal Uses. The yucca root and leaves have steroidal compounds. They have the ability to relieve pain caused by inflammation associated with arthritis and joint pain. It also has a purifying value for blood. Many natives (and herbalists today) boil the roots of the plant to make a tea that will flush out the kidneys and liver.



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Yucca elata agravaceae
This page was authored by Meredith Fouree