This particular Yucca is the Banana Yucca or Yucca baccata. This is a member of the Agave family that can be found on dry slopes and valleys from around 3,000 feet to just above 8,000 feet above sea level. This plant will bloom from April to July from a stalk that will grow to around 5 feet tall. This stalk grows up from the center of the basal rosette.
The flowers are white to cream colored, bell shaped, and have a waxy type appearance. These will have 6 yellowish anthers in a cluster on the stalk of the plant. There are 6 segmented petals that can be around 3 inches long. The buds will be a reddish to a maroon color just before the plant blooms. After the yucca blooms there are several large fruits that resemble a banana in shape. These fruits will grow to around 4 to 5 inches and are very tasty in soups and stews.
This plant contains a chemical compound called saponin which will lather when agitated in water. This is also a toxic compound that is harmless to humans and can be used as a fish poison. A very strong cord can be made from the inner fibers of the leaves. Personally this is where I prefer to get my soap for washing up in the field. It is easier to get to and does not destroy the plant. The root holds the highest amounts of this soap. The root can be grated, crushed, or sliced into small pieces and boiled in water until suds begin to form in the vessel.
This plant also has some edible qualities. The flowers are edible cooked in stir fry, soups, stews, or boiled by themselves. The experience I have had with this plant is that it can cause some stomach upset because of the saponins that are in the entire plant. The young shoot that will hold the blooms is edible cooked like asparagus or raw if collected while very young and still tender. Once the plant has bloomed it will produce large fruit that can be eaten as mentioned earlier. I have herd the root is edible but from my experience it is best used for soap. It is very tough and very hard to eat. Also because of the extremely high amounts of saponins it can cause severe stomach discomfort.
The yucca has several medicinal properties as well. At one time it was considered a source of phytosterols. These are a unique family of plant based compounds that are used in the making and manufacturing of steroidal hormones. It is still used as an astringent in the cosmetic industry. A tea made from the inner root can be drank 3 to 4 times a day for relief from arthritis and joint inflammations. The dose for this is ¼ of an oz of inner root boiled in a pint of water. The plant can also be dried and ground into a powder and taken in capsules 2 to 3 times a day for the same ailments. Both of these remedies can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping. If this is the case you should reduce the amount taken. If taken over a long period of time it can interfere with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins in the small intestine. There are also benefits of this plant for treating inflammations of the urethra and prostate.
The uses I have personally used this plant for include pain from arthritis, fibromialgia, and strained joints. I did in fact have the cramping involved with the inner root. I simply reduced the dose and continued taking for one week. This was more than enough to get some great results with this plant. From what I understand this will not help everyone and is good for a percentage of people.
I also find that cleaning wounds with the soap aids in wound cleansing and if used regularly will prevent infection. I have on occasion used the soap than wrapped the affected area in a bruised leaf. This continued contact made the wound environment to where bacteria could not grow. As far as staying clean and keeping wounds clean in the field this plant is well worth knowing and remembering.