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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Yucca filamentosa L.

Distribution

Mesic pine savannas (MPS-CP).

Notes

Infrequent. Late Apr–early Jun; Sep–Oct . Thornhill 1011 (NCSC). Specimens seen in the vicinity: Sandy Run [Patterson]: Taggart SARU 157 (WNC!). [= Yucca filamentosa L. var. filamentosa sensu RAB; = FNA, Weakley]

  • Thornhill, Robert, Krings, Alexander, Lindbo, David, Stucky, Jon (2014): Guide to the Vascular Flora of the Savannas and Flatwoods of Shaken Creek Preserve and Vicinity (Pender & Onslow Counties, North Carolina, U. S. A.). Biodiversity Data Journal 2, 1099: 1099-1099, URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.2.e1099
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Plazi

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Comments

There are no native Yucca spp. in Illinois. At present, Yucca smalliana (Yucca) is the only species in this genus that has naturalized within the state. This plant has an unstable taxonomic history, and is sometimes referred to as Yucca filamentosa, Yucca filamentosa smalliana, and Yucca flaccida. Instead of the Agave family, it is sometimes placed within the Lily family (Liliaceae). It also has several common names, including Spanish Bayonet and Adam's Needle. A similar species, Yucca glauca (Soapweed), could be cultivated in Illinois as it is found in the Great Plains as far north as Nebraska and Iowa. It differs from Yucca in having a spike-like raceme of flowers, rather than a panicle, and its greenish white flowers are slightly larger in size. There are several other species of Yucca along the coastal southeast and desert southwest, but it is doubtful that they could survive our cold winters.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This introduced perennial plant has a large rosette of evergreen basal leaves that spread outward in all directions. Individual basal leaves are up to 30" long and 2" across; they are blue-gray or green-gray and linear in shape with sharp tips. Except for occasional thread-like fibers, the leaf margins are entire (smooth, rather than serrated). Because of their stiff texture, the basal leaves are normally straight, but sometimes they bend downward around the middle. From the middle of the rosette, one or more flowering stalks are produced that are 5-8' tall. These stalks are more or less erect, but occasionally they fall over from a wind storm or some other reason. The central stalk of the inflorescence is dull light green, slightly pubescent, and rather stout; except for a few leafy bracts, it is largely naked. The bracts are nearly appressed against the stalk and quite small in size. The inflorescence consists of a large panicle of flowers that is typically about 3' long and 1½' across. The lateral branches of the panicle are ascending to widely spreading; like the central stalk, they are dull light green and slightly pubescent. The flowers hang downward from the lateral branches on short stout pedicels. Individual flowers are about 2½" and 1" across, consisting of 6 white tepals, 6 white stamens, and a pistil with central white style. The reproductive organs are hidden within the bell-shaped corolla of the flower. The showy tepals are ovate in shape with glossy surfaces. The blooming period occurs during early to mid-summer and lasts about 3 weeks. There is a strong and pleasant floral fragrance. Those flowers that are successfully fertilized develop light green seedpods about 2½" long and 1" across. Each seed pod has a short-cylindrical in shape and it is 3-celled. At maturity, the seedpods become nearly black and divide into 3 parts, releasing their seeds. Within each cell, the rather large seeds are stacked together in a column. Each seed is black, somewhat flattened, and more or less round in circumference. This plant reproduces by reseeding itself and by forming vegetative offsets from the rosette of basal leaves. In time, these offsets form their own rosettes of basal leaves. The root system consists of an underground caudex with fibrous roots.
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Description

General: Agave Family (Agavaceae). Adam’s needle is an native, evergreen, perennial shrub. The plants have long, thick underground stems and rarely have an above ground stem. The grayish green leaves appear from a rosette at or near the ground. The leaves are stiff and sword-shaped (30 to 76 cm long and 2.5 cm wide) with sharp, pointed tips and long, curly, filamentous threads at the margins. The bell-shaped flowers (5 to 8 cm wide) are a creamy white to pale yellow or green with broadly ovate petals (4-5 cm). The flowers, which appear in late spring and summer, hang loosely in clusters from a large, central spike (1 to 4 m tall) that emerges from the rosette. The fruits are capsules that contain 120 to 150, small black seeds that are dispersed by wind.

Distribution: Adam’s needle is native to the Southeastern United States and Mexico. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Habitat: Adam’s needle is adapted to hot, dry regions in areas that are protected from fire. It occurs in dry, sandy soils along the coast, rocky and sandy places, bluffs, thin woods, oldfields and other open areas.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

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Alternative names

Needle palm, bear grass, bear’s thread, Christmas bells, Confederate flax, curly hair, Eve’s darning needle, Eve’s thread, grass cactus, our-Lord’s-candles, silk grass, soap root, soap week, Spanish-dagger, spoon leaf yucca, thread-and-needle

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Yucca has naturalized throughout Illinois, especially in the central and southern portions of the state (see Distribution Map). Wild specimens are encountered occasionally. This plant is native to sandy areas of southeastern United States. Notwithstanding its southern distribution, Yucca is winter-hardy in Illinois. Habitats include vacant lots, roadsides, areas along railroads, open upland woodlands, cemetery prairies, and sand prairies. This plant is widely cultivated in gardens and yards, from which it occasionally escapes.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Plants acaulescent or rarely caulescent, indistinctly arborescent, 1–4.6 m; rosettes usually small. Stems simple, 0–0.5 m. Leaf blade occasionally erect, proximal leaves often becoming reflexed near middle, lanceolate, flattened, abruptly narrowed and furrowed to apex, thin, widest near middle, 50–75 × 2–4 cm, usually soft and limp, scabrous, margins entire, long and curling, filiferous. Inflorescences paniculate, arising beyond rosettes, ovoid, 7.5–15 dm, glabrous; bracts erect; peduncle scapelike, 1–3 m, less than 2.5 cm diam. Flowers pendent; perianth globose; tepals distinct, nearly white, ovate, 5–7 × 2–3 cm, glabrous, apex short-acuminate; filaments shorter than pistil; pistil 1.5–3.8 cm; stigmas lobed. Fruits erect, capsular, dehiscent, oblong, 3.8–5 × 2 cm, dehiscence septicidal. Seeds dull black, thin, 6 mm diam.
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Type Information

Isotype for Yucca smalliana Fernald
Catalog Number: US 35854
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Status verified from secondary sources
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): A. H. Curtiss
Year Collected: 1898
Locality: Sandy soil, near Jacksonville, Florida., Duval, Florida, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Fernald, M. L. 1944. Rhodora. 46: 8, pl. 809.
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Yucca has naturalized throughout Illinois, especially in the central and southern portions of the state (see Distribution Map). Wild specimens are encountered occasionally. This plant is native to sandy areas of southeastern United States. Notwithstanding its southern distribution, Yucca is winter-hardy in Illinois. Habitats include vacant lots, roadsides, areas along railroads, open upland woodlands, cemetery prairies, and sand prairies. This plant is widely cultivated in gardens and yards, from which it occasionally escapes.
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Habitat & Distribution

Flowering mid spring--early summer. Sandy soil; Ala., Fla., Ga., La., Md., Miss., N.C., S.C., Tenn., Va., W.Va.
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Dispersal

Establishment

Yucca filamentosa does well in garden plantings as well as in areas of high heat and light, such as parking lots. The plants have striking foliage that adds interest to borders, rock gardens and xeriscapes. The plants are long-lived and very drought resistant. The thick, rhizomous roots are storage organs that allow the plants to thrive in many soils, even in areas of pure sand. The plants can spread through this underground root system to form small clumps (1 to 1.5 m wide) with multiple crowns or offshoots. They can tolerate both cold and moderate wetness, making the species one of the most hardy of the genus. The plants may be propagated by dividing the offshoots from the parent plant. The plants may also be propagated through root cuttings and seeds, which sprout readily. Care should be taken in site selection, as the roots of mature plants can grow large and extend deep into the ground, making removal difficult. For more temporary sites, the plants may be grown in containers. For garden plantings space the plants about 1meter apart in a sunny, well-drained location of low to medium fertility. Water the plants well for the first year as the roots establish. Because of the sharp, pointed leaves they should not be placed near playgrounds or other areas where children play.

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Associations

Faunal Associations

Yucca attracts a small group of highly specialized insects. These species include
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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / spot causer
concentrically arranged colony of Pseudocercospora dematiaceous anamorph of Mycosphaerella deightonii causes spots on dead leaf of Yucca filamentosa

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Yucca filamentosa

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Yucca filamentosa

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Abundant (S5) in Georgia, and widespread in the Southeastern states.

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).

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Threats

Pests and potential problems

In areas of poor drainage, the leaves may be sensitive to leaf spot or blight.

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Management

Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

These plant materials are readily available from commercial sources. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

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The flower stalk should be removed once the flowers have dropped. Otherwise, these plants are durable and require very little maintenance.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full sun, mesic to dry conditions, and sandy soil. However, other kinds of soil are tolerated as well, including those that contain loam, clay, or rocky material. Individual plants are long-lived and require little care to maintain.
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Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG

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Uses

Ethnobotanic: The Catawba, Cherokee, Nanticoke and other Native American tribes used Yucca filamentosa for a variety of purposes including food, medicine, cordage and even soap. The roots, which contain saponin, were prepared by boiling and pounding for use as soap. Roots were beaten into a salve or poultice that would then be used to treat sprains or applied to sores on the skin. The roots were used to treat gonorrhea and rheumatism. Skin diseases were treated by rubbing the roots on the skin and by taking a decoction of the roots. The plant was used as a sedative to induce sleep. An infusion of the plant was used to treat diabetes. The flowers were eaten both raw and cooked. The pounded roots were thrown into fishing waters to “intoxicate fishers” allowing for easier catch. The green leaves are easily split into long strips that can be plied into cord. The leaves have long, very strong fibers, a type of sisal, which were twisted into strong thread used as cordage for binding and to construct baskets, fishing nets, fishing lines and clothing. The leaves of Yucca filamentosa contain the strongest fibers native to North America.

Wildlife: Hummingbirds visit the flowers. Yuccas are pollinated by small, white Yucca moths (Tegeticula yucasella and related species) with which they have a special plant-insect mutualism. At night, the fragrant flowers attract the female moth that feeds on the nectar. She then rolls pollen from the flowers into a ball that is three times the size of her head and carries the pollen ball to the next flower. There, she first lays eggs inside the immature ovary and then deposits the pollen on the flower’s stigma insuring that seeds will form to feed her progeny. Because the larvae mature before they are able to consume all of the seeds (60 to 80% of the seeds remain viable), the plants are able to reproduce as well.

Other: The flowers are used for corsages.

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Wikipedia

Yucca filamentosa

Yucca filamentosa, leaf margin detail

Yucca filamentosa, commonly known as Adam's needle, is a medicinal plant native to eastern North America.[1]

Usually trunkless, Yucca filamentosa is a multisuckering plant with heads of 30 inch (75 cm) long, filamentous, blue green strappy leaves. The plant is fully hardy. Yucca filamentosa is readily identified from other Yucca species by white threads (filaments) on the leaf margins (see image).[2]

Flower stems up to 10 ft (3 m) tall bear masses of pendulous cream flowers in early summer.[3]

In the wild, Y. filamentosa is native to the southeastern United States, as far west as Louisiana and as far north as Virginia. However, it is widely cultivated and can be found naturalized outside its native range.[3]

Y. filamentosa is closely related to Yucca flaccida and it is possible they should in fact be classified as a single species.[3]

Yuccas are useful garden perennials because they bloom at night (nyctinisty). The creamy-white flowers fill with sap and lift petals to the darkening sky then release a sweet odor (which reminds some viewers as smelling of a toilet soap) that attracts the very small pollinator, the yucca moth.

Cultivars

  • Bright Edge is a dwarf cultivar with yellow-edged foliage and creamy flowers tinged with green.
  • Golden Sword is similar to Bright Edge but larger.
  • Ivory Tower has creamy white flowers tinged with green.
  • Color Guard has broad yellow stripes all year, plus red stripes in the Winter.

Uses

The leaves, stems and roots of this plant can be used to stun fish.[4]

References

  1. ^ Flora, The Gardeners' Bible, ABC Publishing, Sydney, 2005
  2. ^ The Gardeners' Encyclopaedia of Plants & Flowers, Readers' Digest, Sydney, 1999
  3. ^ a b c "Yucca filamentosa". Flora of North America. http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=242102062. 
  4. ^ Duffy, Kevin (2004). Harvesting Nature's Bounty, Second Edition. City: Bookman Pub. ISBN 159453294X. 
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Notes

Comments

Yucca filamentosa is often cultivated and has become naturalized in some areas beyond its native range. Varieties that have been described are rarely recognized in recent literature. Yucca filamentosa and Y. flaccida are very closely related and perhaps are not distinct species.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: As treated here and in Kartesz (1999) Yucca filamentosa includes Y. flaccida. FNA (vol. 26, 2002) treats them as distinct, but suggests that it is possible that Y. flaccida should be treated as a variety of Y. filamentosa.

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