Herb: Spanish Bayonet

Latin name: Yucca aloifolia

Family: Agavaceae (Century-plant Family)

Medicinal use of Spanish Bayonet:

The fruit is purgative. The boiled and mashed root, mixed with oil, has been used as a salve in the treatment of various complaints.

Description of the plant:


7.5 m
(25 feet)

May to


Habitat of the herb:

Sand dunes of the coast, occasionally up to 60 km inland, in pine forests. Also found on the margins of brackish marshes.

Edible parts of Spanish Bayonet:

Fruit - raw or cooked. A thick, succulent mass of bitter-sweet juicy flesh. The fruit is up to 10 cm long and 4cm wide. Flowers - raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, or can be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. A crisp texture. Flowering stem - peeled and boiled. Used like asparagus.

Other uses of the herb:

A fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making ropes, baskets and mats. Narrow, split leaf strips have been used as sewing material for coiled plaques. The leaves have been used in several types of basketry. The leaf splints have been used as brushes to apply colour to pottery. The leaves can be split and used as a temporary string. The roots are rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute. They are crushed and then placed in water to form suds that are used in bathing and shampooing. The juice from the plant has been used as a varnish.

Propagation of Spanish Bayonet:

Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse. Pre-soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water may reduce the germination time. It usually germinates within 1 - 12 months if kept at a temperature of 20C. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer and consider giving them some winter protection for at least their first winter outdoors - a simple pane of glass is usually sufficient. Root cuttings in late winter or early spring. Lift in April/May and remove small buds from base of stem and rhizomes. Dip in dry wood ashes to stop any bleeding and plant in a sandy soil in pots in a greenhouse until established.

Cultivation of the herb:

Sand dunes of the coast, occasionally up to 60 km inland, in pine forests. Also found on the margins of brackish marshes.

Known hazards of Yucca aloifolia:

The roots contain saponins. Whilst saponins are quite toxic to people, they are poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass straight through. They are also destroyed by prolonged heat, such as slow baking in an oven. Saponins are found in many common foods such as beans. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.