HPPR hosts & contributors
Growing on the High Plains Episode
Thu March 7, 2013
The desert yucca plan was designated as the state flower of New Mexico in 1927. It was chosen by the school children of the state, then recommended by the New Mexico Federation of Women's Clubs.
There are 40-50 varieties of the species. Some are perennials, some shrubs, and some native trees. All varieties enjoy the hot and dry parts of North America, Central American, and the West Indies.
Early settlers called them, "our Lord's candles." Native Americans used the roots of yucca glauca, or soapweed yucca, for shampoo and soap. Yuccas also have edible parts including, fruit, seeds, flowers, stems, and at times the roots. Dried yucca wood has a very low igniting point, which makes it ideal for starting fires.
Yucca plants have a specialized pollination system that requires a specific moth, the yucca moth. This creature transfers pollen from the stamens of one plant to the stigma of another. The flower becomes a nursery for the moth lays an egg in the flower. Once the larvae hatches, they eat a small amount of developing seeds.
Yucca are a creative addition to any flower bed in a dry climate, but care should be taken in choosing a location. The sharp leaves need to be placed away from walkways and human contact.