Yucca whipplei

Our Lordís Candle Yucca

 

Were it not for this plant, Indians of this region would have been hard pressed to survive early spring. Our Lordís Candle Yucca is the closest thing to a grocery store of any plant in our desert And these would have been hard times, because so many of the plants were destroyed by last yearís fires.

All yuccas are protected, and this one is no exception. It is nonetheless readily available in Hesperiaís nurseries. This yucca is an attractive drought resistant, no maintenance plant.

The remarkable story of this plant is its ethnobotanical uses:

The flowers of this yucca can be eaten raw cooked.

The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked.

The flowering stem can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw, it has a taste and texture similar to that of jicama. Pit baked, it tastes more like sweet potato.

The seeds were ground into a flour and cooked into a mush or gruel.

The roots were pit baked. Even though the roots contain toxic saponins, they are not easily absorbed by the human body, and pass right through. Heat also destroys the saponins. Beans also contain saponins. Quantities of the root were thrown in ponds to stun fish to be gathered as they floated to the surface. The saponins in they roots also made good soap.

The fiber obtained from the leaves were used to make baskets, rope, mats, and paint brushes.

The ends of the leaves of this plant are sharp, so plant it away from sidewalks and from childrenís play areas.

This is another in a series of articles to encourage the residents of Hesperia to plant native plants. In doing so, we can reduce the

use of water in our town enormously. Native gardens require much less maintenance and are extremely attractive. Do not try to transplant a wild yucca.

Here are some resources for you to read more about the rubber rabbit bush:

1. Bean, Lowell J. and Saubel, Katherine Siva, Temalpakh, Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants, Malki Museum P, 1972

2. Berkeley Museum Photo Project, http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/photos/flora/

3. Manual of California Vegetation, California Native Plant Society, http://davisherb.ucdavis. edu/cnpsActiveServer/index.html

4. Native American Ethnobotany, U of Michigan, Dearborn, http://herb.umd.umich.edu/

://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/D_search.html

5. Sunset Western Garden Book, 2001

6. Wasowski, Sally et al, Landscaping from El Paso to L. A., Contemporary Books, 2000