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Yucca elata (Soaptree yucca)
Anderson, Wynn

Yucca elata

Yucca elata (Engelm.) Engelm.

Soaptree Yucca, Soaptree, Soapweed Yucca, Palmilla, Palmella, Amole

Agavaceae (Century-Plant Family)

Synonym(s): Yucca angustissima var. elata, Yucca elata var. elata, Yucca elata var. utahensis, Yucca elata var. verdiensis, Yucca utahensis, Yucca verdiensis


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

This is a 5-20 ft., tree-like yucca with fine, arching, gray-green to blue-green leaves with white margins. Plants resemble coarse bunchgrass when young, gradually developing several heads on trunk-like stems with age. The flowering stem in 3-7 ft. long with 25-30 side branches covered with clusters of creamy-white, bell-shaped flowers. The brown, woody seed capsule is interesting. Evergreen, palmlike shrub or small tree with single trunk or several clustered trunks; unbranched or with few upright branches and very long, narrow leaves. Growth is extremely slow, about 1" (2.5 cm) in height a year. The local name "Palmilla," Spanish for "small palm," refers to the resemblance of this species to a palm.


From the Image Gallery

8 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 20 feet tall in bloom.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun


USA: AZ , NM , NV , TX , UT
Native Distribution: S.w. TX to c. & s. AZ; also adjacent Mex.
Native Habitat: Deserts; grasslands; mesas

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained soils. Gypseous, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam.
Conditions Comments: State flower of New Mexico.


Use Ornamental: Blooms ornamental, Showy, Accent tree or shrub
Use Wildlife: Nectar-moths, Seeds-Small mammals, Browse.
Use Food: Cattle relish the young flower stalks, and chopped trunks and leaves serve as emergency food during droughts. Indians ate the flower buds, flowers, and young flower stalks of this and other yuccas, either raw or boiled.
Use Other: Soapy material in the roots and trunks of this abundant species has been used as a soap substitute. The leaves are a source of coarse fiber and were used by Native Americans in making baskets.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Yucca giant butterfly.


Description: Yuccas will germinate promptly from fresh seed held over winter. Seeds germinate best in 60-70 degree temperatures. Yuccas may also be grown from rhizomes, stem cuttings, or by digging offsets from the side of established plants. Transplant into a well
Seed Collection: Gather capsules as they begin to dry but before they split. Allow to dry, then crush to remove seeds. Overwinter, keep seeds in moist sand in the refrigerator. For longer storage periods, keep in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Commercially Avail: yes

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX


Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 308 - Lone Star Field Guide to Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of Texas, Revised Edition (2003) Tull, D. & G.O. Miller
Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Yucca elata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Yucca elata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Yucca elata


Record Modified: 2021-04-26
Research By: TWC Staff

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