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Barbara Hughes
Seminole County Extension Services Manager
250 West County Home Road
Sanford, FL  32773
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spanish bayonet

The Spanish Bayonet


The Spanish bayonet is a remarkable plant that grows abundantly on coastal sand dunes of Florida, Georgia and other Gulf coast states. The Spanish bayonet, Yucca aloifolia, is one of 30 species of Yucca that grow mainly in the dry soils of the desert southwest. All species of yucca occur in the Western Hemisphere. Yuccas belong to the agave family of plants that include the century plant, Adam?s needle, dracaena, and ti plant. This plant does not require watering, fertilizers or pesticide applications to survive in the environment and these qualities make it very interesting for use in the landscape when considering energy conservation.

The plant: Yucca is an evergreen woody plant that may grow up to 25 feet tall, usually with a single stem but sometimes branched. The leaves are dark green and dagger-like shaped one to two feet long and 2 inches wide. The leaves have needle-like spines on the tips that can be dangerous when handling the plants. Leaves are borne in clumps from a central crown and as the stem grows, the bottom leaves die off, giving the plant a palm-like appearance.

Flowers: Blooming occurs from May through November, with flowers being borne on a spectacular terminal panicle at the tip of the plant. Flowers are cream colored to white, about 1 inch long, hanging, and cup-like, lasting for about one or two weeks each year. Pollination of the flowers is very specialized, and apparently, they can only be fertilized by the yucca moth. This process provides food for the moth offspring that feed on the developing seeds. The petals of the flowers are succulent and edible. They are said to be rather tasty when eaten raw, and can be used in tossed salads or dipped in batter and fried.

Fruits: The fruits are fleshy capsules about 3 to 5 inches long that dry and turn black at maturity.

Light requirements: Yuccas do best in full sun but can take some shade.

Uses: Early Indians used Yuccas in pottery making and for footwear. They also used the fibers from leaves to make baskets. In the landscape, because of its tolerance to salt, they can be planted in properties near the beaches. For barriers, set plants or uprooted cuttings two-to-three feet apart. Yuccas add a tropical character to your garden and attract butterflies. A natural soap can be extracted from the roots.

Propagation: Yuccas can be propagated by seeds or transplanting. The easiest way to transplant a yucca is to cut two-to-three foot lengths of the stem and plant the butt ends about 1 foot deep. Plants can also be propagated by division and from suckers. Sprouting occurs naturally from fallen stems.

Culture: Yuccas must be planted in well-drained soils. Plants will grow in soil with low fertility and little or no organic matter, but use a little fertilizer until established. Water sparingly during the establishment period, but later on additional watering will not be necessary. Under normal conditions yucca plants will look green and healthy without any care. Thorns at the tips of the leaves could be removed with sharp pruning shears as the new foliage develops. There are also clones of yucca with foliage striped with gold or gold and pink. There is a spineless yucca that can be used if the thorns are a problem in your landscape.

Pests: The yucca moth larvae can destroy some plants by eating the terminal buds. The larvae can be controlled by hand picking or a pesticide spray. B.T. or Sevin are recommended for control of the yucca moth larvae.

Diseases: There are no serious diseases that affect yucca. Too wet of soils can lead to root diseases caused by fungi. Control of root rot problems is easily avoided by planting in well-drained soils.

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