There are 40-50 species of the yucca plant, and all are notable for their rosettes of tough sword-like evergreen leaves and white panicles of flowers growing from the center. They were once mistaken for a type of cassava. Yuccas are pollinated by yucca moths which lay their eggs in the flowers. The larva then feeds on the yucca seeds. Yuccas also host three kinds of giant-skipper caterpillars. Some varieties of yucca roots are high in saponins and used in shampoos in Native American rituals. The dried leaves provide good firestarters. Primarily yuccas are used for ornamental purposes because they tolerate a wide range of conditions.
Range: Native to hot, dry parts of the Americas and the Caribbean as well as the lowlands and dry beach scrub areas of the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, as far north as Virginia.
Photos by Carl Berube
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