Friday, August 26, 2022

Plant Profile: Yucca filifera (Mexican Tree Yucca)

Latin name: Yucca filifera  ("YOU-kah fill-IFF-er-ah")
Common name: Mexican Tree Yucca, Palma China
Originally from: Mexico
Blooms: 5' long weeping panicle of white bells
Light: Full sun to light shade.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: Up to 32' tall and 9-12' wide
Zones: 6 to 10b
Where to find in P. Garden: We have some in the Brights Bed at the top of PG, and several down at PRG too.

What a handsome beast! This Yucca is one of my favorites for so many reasons. First of all, it doesn't need any water, loves rocky, dry soil, and doesn't need any pruning - any faffing at all actually - it always looks sharp. 

And when I say sharp, I mean watch out - the leaves are rigid, pointed, and they will stab you. I used to say "How can you tell the difference between Yucca guatemalensis and Yucca aloifolia? If you fall into the former you'll get scratched up as you scramble out. If you fall into the latter you won't get out at all..." but Yucca filifera takes it to the next level, turning the average human appendage into kebab meat with a wink and a smile.

With that in mind I have bought every one I can find at Flora Grubb and planted them in places where I don't want people going to great effect. They're all less than 4' tall right now but keep an eye on them. Growing up to 32 feet in height the Yucca filifera is regarded as one of the largest and fastest growing Yuccas so its growth rate would be considered fast, if it's given extra water.

It flowers from July to August with large clusters of cream or white bell-shaped flowers on a long (often over 1m) downwards pointing panicle which is very distinctive.  Despite being known as a low pollen plant, great for people with allergies, in its native habitat it reproduces through pollination by the yucca moth (Tegeticula yuccasella).

In Mexico, its early use was roofing for homes because of the strong fibers in its leaves. It is used for rope, thread, baskets, mats and the roots contain saponins which are toxic to humans and animals but can be used as soap.  The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked, the stem can be cooked like asparagus and even the flowers are edible.

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