The Forager's Path - School of Botanical Studies

Plant Profile: Yucca

Yucca baccata (Liliaceae)
Often mistaken for its close relative, agave. The main visual difference is the fibers peeling off along the edges of the yucca leaves while agave leaves have serrated edges with sharp points that loosely resemble shark’s teeth.

Common Names:"Arizona Herbal Medicine"
Banana yucca.

Southwest Habitat:
Found between 3500’ and 7,000’ in Arizona. At its upper ranges, it grows along southern exposures of canyon rims. Very common along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. below 6,000’, it grows mixed in with pinon, juniper and Opuntia.

Energy & Tastes:
The fruit has a sweet, starchy taste; like a wilder version of a sweet potato. I find it to be very palatable although not everyone agrees.

The leaves, flowers and roots have saponins which makes the plant useful as a sudsing soap or shampoo.

"Arizona Herbal Medicine"Preferred Method of Preparation:
In the Flagstaff area, the fruit is picked mid-August through mid-September. It should be light green with some brown spots, like a banana. It can be roasted in either the oven or the coals of a campfire.

Therapeutic Uses:
My uses of yucca are as a food (fruit), soap-shampoo (leaves) and cordage (leaves). The root has historical and current uses as an anti-inflammatory although I prefer other herbs for this condition.

The Plant Profiles are brief materia medica summaries of plants encountered during plant walks or introduced during class on our longer programs. They are presented here to help students organize plant info on"Arizona Herbal Medicine" an ongoing basis. Although the Profiles are not meant to be comprehensive, they are offered here to the public in the hope that others find these pages useful.



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