Yucca filamentosa is at the top of my list of plants that I’ve grown and never expected would survive one winter let alone over 10 and finally flower, as it did in 2008…..sadly, it used up all its energy in flowering and died that winter..
My title? Needle and Thread salad, doesn’t sound very appetising, does it? Well, two of the common names of this North American plant are Adam’s needle and Eve’s thread, with reference to the needle like inflorescence and the thread-like leaf edge filaments that help separate this species from other Yuccas! It is, for obvious reasons, also known as Spanish Bayonet and Desert Candle.
Although other parts of this plant and other Yuccas were used by Native Americans, it’s the flowers you will want to try in your garden, unless you have the pollinating Yucca moth (Tegeticula yuccasella) in your area, in which case you may even get to taste the edible fruit (I haven’t)..
Knowing that this is a plant that grows on sandy soils in the wild, I planted it initially right next to the south facing wall of my house back in the mid-1990s. To my surprise, it came back year after year, but grew slowly. I then moved it next to my small home made greenhouse on the east facing side of my house in 2001. It grew slowly but steadily and then to my amazement I discovered a flowering stem and it flowered late August 2008 (see the pictures below, including the salad I made with the flowers). The flowers are delicious and I didn’t detect any bitterness as noted by some people!
This species is one of the best edimentals where it thrives, but there are a number of even more ornamental varieties worth trying including: ‘Bright Edge’, a dwarf cultivar with creamy leaf margins (awarded the UK Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit), Golden Sword’ which is similar to ‘Bright Edge’, but larger; ‘Ivory Tower’ has creamy white flowers tinged with green; ‘Color Guard’ with broad yellow stripes all year and red stripes in the winter.
Other uses include fibre extracted from the leaves and soap from the saponin-rich roots.
…and just last month Yucca filamentosa flowers were featured in a salad I made at my walk and talk at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh