Mystery Solved: It's Not Yucky! It's Yucca!

Wednesday's mystery is solved - probably!

On Wednesday - as a part of blogland's "Wordless Wednesday" - I posted several pictures of a plant that "sprouted" overnight in front of my house, asking if anyone knew the name of the plant.

There were loads of responses. Most people suggested that the plant is a yucca plant, although several commented they had never seen the right-angle or "elbow" growth from a yucca. Thanks to Lynne, Syd, Shey, Stephanie, Karen, Barb, Kaye, The Muse and Oldqueen44 for knowing their yucca plants.
I always thought the yucca was something that grew in desert areas, especially in the southwestern region of the U.S. - and I'm in hot, humid coastal South Carolina.

In the last two days, I've learned a lot about yuccas. They are used to make medicines, ropes, dental floss, baskets, sandals, belts, brushes, rugs, salads, drinks, soap, shampoo, cakes, brooms and more! The yucca is poisonous to rabbits.

Generally, most authorities believe it is part of the lily family, although some references point to the agave family as well. And it seems that it might be related to the tapioca as well.
It takes the yucca anywhere from 3 to 7 years to bloom, depending on the variety. Plants grow up to 20 feet tall, again depending on the variety.

Yucca is used to treat arthritis, migraine headaches, hypertension, dandruff, hair loss, sprains, skin disorders, inflammation, bleeding, bursitis, gout, kidney problems, liver disorders, colitis, ulcers, bad cholesterol and gallbladder problems, among other things.

There are about 40 varieties. One is the yucca filamentosa, also known as Adam's Needle. A very similar plant is known as the yucca flaccida. The yucca elata is called a soaptree. Another variety is the yucca banana.

And the Joshua tree is part of the yucca family. [from http://www.allrefer.com/: "The Joshua tree . . . is a picturesque treelike species of desert regions. Mormons crossing the California deserts are said to have so named it because the grotesquely angular branches looked like the outstretched arms of a Joshua leading them out of the wilderness."]


There are varying opinions about the name of the plant. Here's information from WAYNE'S WORD Vol. 9 (No. 2) Summer 2000: "The name Yucca is derived from "yuca," a Carib Indian name for the cassava or tapioca plant. . . . Yucca is also the creole word for cassava."
Even so, the yucca and the yuca are from two different botanical families.


When I originally researched the yucca for this post, Wikipedia reported that yucca, in Spanish, means "raging vagina." When I checked back a week later - after someone questioned it - the Wikipedia article had been edited with this part deleted. I didn't make it up, don't know who originally wrote it as fact in Wikipedia or who deleted it. Anyway, I've been trying to figure out the relationship and why it might have been believeable. Maybe it has to do with this: another source says that a tea made from the boiled roots of the yucca soapweed was given to women to bring about menopause. [http://www.richfarmgarden.com/]


There's even a recipe for a yucca drink on http://www.barflies.com/. I think this one is for a punch.
Ingredients: Lemons, Limes, 3 lb. (144 cl) Sugar, 1/2 Gal. (192 cl) Vodka, 8 lb. (384 cl) Ice

Recipe: Put the Vodka and the sugar into a container. Slice 10 lemons and 10 limes and add them to the Vodka. Mix for 10 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.

Finally, a few odds 'n ends, just in case you're still reading this far down and would like to learn more:
Pollination - "Yucca plants are dependent on Yucca moths for pollination and Yucca moths can only lay their eggs in a Yucca plant's flower. The Yucca moth lays its eggs in the yucca plant at the same time pollinating it. The moth makes sure not to lay too many eggs in each flower to prevent the larva from eating all of the Yucca seeds. This is the Yucca plant's only means of pollination, as it cannot pollinate itself." http://www.wikipedia.com/
"Native Americans also used yucca plants for a variety of other non-medical purposes, including making sandals, belts, cloth, baskets, cords, and mats. Such uses can still be found today among Hopi, Papago, and Ute Indians.
The Zuni used a mixture of soap made from yucca sap and ground aster to wash newborn babies to stimulate hair growth. Navajos would tie a bunch of yucca fibers together and use it as a brush for cleaning metates.

The primary medical use of yucca is to treat arthritis and joint pain and inflammation. Native Americans used sap from the leaves in poultices or baths to treat skin lesions, sprains, inflammation, and bleeding.

Teas made from yucca mixed together with other herbs are still brewed by folk healers in northern New Mexico to treat asthma and headaches. Constituents of the yucca are used today to treat people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The plant's medical properties are found in saponins, precursors of cortisone, which prevent the release of toxins from the intestines that restrict normal cartilage formation. Saponins are produced naturally in the body by the adrenal glands. It is believed yucca works best for arthritis when taken over an extended period of time.

Yucca extract is used to treat a variety of other conditions, including migraine headaches, colitis, ulcers, wounds, gout, bursitis, hypertension (high blood pressure), and high LDL cholesterol (also called bad cholesterol). Liver, kidney, and gallbladder disorders are also treated with yucca extract.

More recently, researchers have found that resveratrol, a compound found in yucca extract as well as in red wine, inhibits the aggregation or clumping of blood platelets. This finding suggests that yucca extract may be useful in preventing blood clots.

A number of commercial uses for yucca extract have been found, including adding it to root beer, alcoholic beer, and cocktail mixers as a foaming agent. The bittersweet dark brown extract is also used as an additive in ice cream and other foods.

The extract . . . is also used as an additive in natural pet foods. It is reported to speed up bowel elimination, reduce fecal and urine odor, and improve digestion in dogs and cats." http://www.healthline.com/

If you read all of this, thanks! You'll know more about the yucca than the "average Joe." But, to be quite honest, some of this stuff sounds pretty yucky to me!


Sarge Charlie said...

Holy crap, you have been doing your homework.

Maria@Conversations with Moms said...

Wow! Mystery solved. Yucca? What a name.

kayerj said...

I read the whole thing, yes I did. I did know a lot of the things you shared, but I didn't know the Joshua tree was a yucca though now that you mention it I realize that the spines are the same. I have also used shampoo's and soaps that have yucca as an ingredient. Thanks for the information. Is there a test now? I'm glad you solved your mystery :)

SandyCarlson said...

I love the way you got to the answer. Awesome teamwork!

Unknown said...

Wow, that is "everything you ever wanted to know about yucca's but were afraid to ask!"

Shey said...

Wow! There's lots of information I'm learning here. :) I'm happy for you that the plant got identified.

Happy weekend! :)

Barb said...

Wow. I think you may have missed your calling. You're a good researcher!

With all these uses and benefits, it sounds like we should be protecting the yucca from extinction instead of just letting it grow unnoticed in your yard !

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Too funny!
Sorry, I'm still caught up with the Spanish meaning. Who would have thought they'd need a word for that?
I'll never look at yuccas the same way.

Syd said...

Glad that you know this plant now. Good researching. Have a great day.

Stephanie said...

Thanks for stopping by to let me know you figured it out! :) What an informative post! I learned some new things about the yucca (although I'm not sure I believe everything I read on Wikipedia! ;)

One more use to add: eating the root. I don't know how you prepare it, but, in Peru, it's a common side dish. It's good - kind of starchy like a potato but with a slightly different flavor.

Thanks for the info!

Grampy said...

I was very curious about the mystery plant. I didn't expect to get such a wonderful learning experience from you. I thought I was going to get a one sentence explanation. You did a wonderful job.

Oldqueen44 said...

My husband said no way to the raging Vagina meaning so we did some research and we have come to the conclusion that someone commented on Wikipedia about yucca meaning raging vagina when in fact it really doesn't. The Spanish dictionary says there is no definition for the word yucca. If you disagree with us would you be so kind as to point us to the exact spot that the definition is given?

Unknown said...

Thanks to you and to your husband. As I noted in the original post, that information was from Wikipedia. It was presented as fact. After getting your comment, I returned to Wikipedia and found that the article had been edited and that part deleted. It was edited within the last 12 hours, according to the bottom of the article! I have revised my original post accordingly. I hope all of my other sources are much more reliable if the information on Wikipedia was not correct. Again, thanks!

Lynne said...

WOW! I had no idea the yucca plant had so many uses and interesting facts!
The only reason I knew the name of the plant was that we have them in our yard and, 2 years ago, when we moved from Chicago to TX, I had to ask people what it was!

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