Herb: Our Lord's Candle


Latin name: Yucca whipplei


Synonyms: Hesperoyucca funifera, Hesperoyucca whipplei, Yucca funifera


Family: Agavaceae (Century-plant Family)



Edible parts of Our Lord's Candle:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Flowers - raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, and can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. Young flowers have been parboiled and eaten, whilst older flowers have been boiled in three lots of water before being eaten. This suggests the flowers are quite bitter. Flowering stem - raw or cooked. It is best used when fully grown, but before the flower buds expand. It can be peeled, cut into sections then cooked and used like asparagus. The roasted stems have been dried, ground into a powder then mixed with water to make cakes. Seed - cooked. It can be ground into a powder or cooked and used as a gruel.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Shrub

Height:
2 m
(6 1/2 foot)

Flovering:
May to
June


Scent:
Scented
Shrub

Habitat of the herb:

Dry, grassy and often stony slopes to 1200 metres.

Other uses of Our Lord's Candle:

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

Propagation of the herb:

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. Division of suckers in late spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the following spring.

Cultivation of Our Lord's Candle:

Dry, grassy and often stony slopes to 1200 metres.

Medicinal use of the herb:

None known

Known hazards of Yucca whipplei:

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.