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Spotlight on an Island Native

Spanish Bayonet

Scientific name:  Yucca aloifolia spanish bayonet

Spanish Bayonet, also known as Aloe Yucca, is a spectacular sight to behold in bloom, just don’t venture too closely!

Aptly named, the leaves bear stiff, sharp points that will inflict a painful stab if encountered. Spikes of Spanish Bayonet flowers are creamy-white in color, and the raw petals are apparently quite tasty when added to salads.

Interestingly, though this plant often proliferates by root suckers, it does not frequently produce seeds, as the yucca moth pollinator is not present in our area. The leaves are also quite fibrous, and were utilized by the early Native American tribes for variety of purposes involving fiber. Leaving the spine intact, you can create a “needle and thread” by shredding the leaves behind the tip. Additionally, early pioneers used Spanish Bayonet as a source of rope or string, and used the fibers to string fish for drying. Many other cultures have also taken advantage of the sharp tips of the leaves, using the plants as a living fence.

Found throughout Florida, the southeastern United States, Mexico, and the West Indies, Spanish Bayonet is related to the better known Agave (of which one species is the source of tequila). Growing to a height of 5-15 feet, it is found in typically dry soils, in sun or part shade, and is quite salt tolerant. It is an easy plant to grow, just be sure not to place it near a sidewalk or an area where people will come in contact with its spines.

Photo courtesy Tom Pick