Herb: Spanish Dagger

Latin name: Yucca gloriosa

Synonyms: Yucca ellacombei

Family: Agavaceae (Century-plant Family)

Medicinal use of Spanish Dagger:

The fruit is purgative. The root is detergent.

Description of the plant:


180 cm
(6 feet)

July to


Habitat of the herb:

Sand dunes and the borders of beaches of the seacoast.

Edible parts of Spanish Dagger:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is up to 10cm long and 26mm wide. The fruit is very rarely produced in the wild. Flowers - raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, and can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. Flowering stem - cooked and used like asparagus. Root - cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and made into a bread.

Other uses of the herb:

A fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making cloth, ropes, baskets and mats. The roots are rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute.

Propagation of Spanish Dagger:

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. Seed is not produced in Britain unless the flowers are hand pollinated. 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. Cuttings can be made of the tops of old plants. These normally root quite easily in the growing season.

Cultivation of the herb:

Sand dunes and the borders of beaches of the seacoast.

Known hazards of Yucca gloriosa:

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.