See also: Yucca
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A flowering Adam’s needle or common yucca ( Yucca filamentosa) near Kerikeri, New Zealand


Variant of yuca, from Galibi Carib yuca ( cassava (Manihot esculenta)). The word was applied to plants of the genus Yucca (now the main sense), because Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) and others confused them with the cassava. [1] [2]



yucca (plural yuccas)

  1. Any of several evergreen plants of the genus Yucca, having long, pointed, and rigid leaves at the top of a woody stem, and bearing a large panicle of showy white blossoms.
    • [1735, Philip Miller, “YUCCA”, in The Gardeners Dictionary: Containing the Methods of Cultivating and Improving the Kitchen, Fruit and Flower Garden, as also the Physick Garden, Wilderness, Conservatory, and Vineyard. [...] In Two Volumes, volume II, abridged edition, London: Printed for the author, and sold by C[harles] Rivington, at the Bible and Crown, in St. Paul's Church-Yard, OCLC 508713730:
      YUCCA; The Indian Yucca; vulgô. / The Characters are; / It hath the Appearance of an Aloe, the Leaves ending in a ſharp Point, but will grow in the Habit of a Tree; [] The Species are; / 1. Yucca; foliis Aloes. C. B. P. The common Yucca. / 2. Yucca; foliis filamentoſis. Moriſs. Yucca with Threads growing from the Leaves.]
    • 1987, Rita Buchanan, “Plant Fibers for Spinning and Stuffing”, in A Weaver's Garden, Loveland, Colo.: Interweave Press, ISBN page 51:
      Yuccas are large, impressive plants with tough, leathery swordlike leaves and towering stalks of white cupshaped flowers. Although they are most abundant in the arid Southwest and on into Mexico, yuccas also grow in dry sandy spots throughout the East and Midwest. There are about forty species of yuccas. All have fibers in their leaves, and many serve as soap plants also [].
    • 2000, Margaret Roberts, “Yucca: Yucca gloriosa”, in Edible & Medicinal Flowers, Claremont, Cape Town: The Spearhead Press, New Africa Books, ISBN 978-0-86486-467-3, page 85:
      The strange yet appealing yucca is native to the United States, Mexico and the West Indies and is part of the Agavaceae family, many species of which have tough, sword-like leaves.
    • 2013, George Oxford Miller, “Native Plant Profiles”, in Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas, 2nd edition, Minneapolis, Minn.: Voyageur Press, ISBN page 132:
      Small, shrubby yuccas give your landscape a characteristic Southwest flavor. Their size adapts them to limited areas, such as patio and pool gardens or corner plantings. The blade-like leaves add variety to a cactus or xeriscape garden. Small yuccas make ideal accent plants, and when they send up their stalk of flowers, they become the center of attention.
  2. (now proscribed, obsolete) The yuca ( cassava).
    • [1677, Thomas Holyoke [i.e., Thomas Holyoake], “Jucca”, in A Large Dictionary: In Three Parts: I. The English before the Latin, [...] II. The Latin before the English, [...] III. The Proper Names of Persons, Places, and Other Things Necessary to the Understanding of Historians and Poets. [...], London: Printed by W[illiam] Rawlins, for G[eorge] Sawbridge, W[illiam] Place, T[homas] Basset, T[homas] Dring, J[ohn] Leigh, and J[ohn] Place, OCLC 78213826:
      Jucca, ſive Yucca Peruana. The root whereof the bread Caſua, or Cazava is made.]
    • 1824, Francis Hall, Colombia: Its Present State, in Respect of Climate, Soil, Productions, Population, Government, Commerce, Revenue, Manufactures, Arts, Literature, Manners, Education, and Inducements to Emigration: With an Original Map: And Itineraries, Partly from Spanish Surveys, Partly from Actual Observation, London: Printed for Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, OCLC 6390118, page 69:
      [A] second kind of bread is made of the root, called Yucca, which is bruised, and the juice, which is poisonous, expressed; it is then spread into broad thin cakes, and dried for use. In this shape it is called cassava, and though much esteemed by the natives, to a European palate (except perhaps a Scotch one) seems harsh, insipid, and little nutritious.
    • 1866, [Thomas] Mayne Reid, “The Cinchona Trees”, in The Forest Exiles; or, The Perils of a Peruvian Family Amid the Wilds of the Amazon, Boston, Mass.: Ticknor and Fields, OCLC 5177479, page 162:
      There are two kinds of the yucca, or manioc root,—the yucca dulce and the yucca amarga,—the sweet and bitter. One may be eaten raw without danger. The other, which closely resembles it, if eaten raw, would produce almost instant death, as its juice is one of the deadliest of vegetable poisons.
    • 2002, José de Acosta; Walter D. Mignolo; Frances López-Morillas, transl., “Of Yucca and Cassava, and Potatoes and Chuño and Rice”, in Jane E. Mangan, editor, Natural and Moral History of the Indies (Chronicles of the New World Order), Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, ISBN page 200:
      In some parts of the Indies they use a kind of bread called cassava, which is made from a certain root called yucca. The yucca root is large and thick. It is cut into small pieces and grated and squeezed in a sort of press, and what is left resembles a thin cake that is very long and broad, almost like a shield. Dried, this is the bread that they eat; it has no taste and is perfectly insipid but is wholesome and nourishing.
    • 2006, Maria Fiallos, “The Northeast Corridor”, in Adventure Guide: Honduras & the Bay Islands (Hunter Travel Guides), Edison, N.J.: Hunter Publishing, ISBN page 85:
      Cassava is a typical Garífuna food made from yucca, a semi-permanent crop found in tropical and subtropical regions. A basic food crop, yucca grows in poor soil where other crops will not.

Usage notes

While yucca was formerly also used on occasion to refer to the yuca ( cassava), this usage is now regarded as erroneous.



Derived terms



  1. ^ Mary Irish; Gary Irish (2000) Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants: a Gardener's Guide[1], Portland, Or.: Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-442-8, page 18.
  2. ^ Umberto Quattrocchi (2000) CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names[2], volume 4 (R–Z), Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, ISBN 978-0-8493-2678-3, page 2862.

Further reading

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