Habit: Yucca filamentosa is a slow-growing evergreen shrub, with interesting habit and shape. It has mostly underground stems, which rarely grow above the soil level. The body of the plant consists of a basal rosette of rigid, sword-shaped, grayish green leaves. Leaf blades have sharp tips and curly threads along the margins. Some varieties may also have variegated leaves, with yellow mid-vein and dark green edges. In late spring or early summer, flowering stalks bearing loose clusters of nodding, bell-shaped flowers emerge from the center of the rosettes, typically growing 3 to 5 feet above the tip of the leaves. Flowers are fragrant, about 2 to 3 inches wide, and have broad, ovate, cream to white petals.
Ecology: this species is adapted to hot, dry regions. It grows in sand dunes along coastal areas, rocky fields and deserts. Native communities are scattered all over eastern North America, mainly in the southeast.
Growing conditions: enjoys full sun and well-drained, moist to dry soils. It is a low maintenance plant, able to tolerate poor, sandy soils. Yucca filamentosa has striking foliage, which adds year-round interest to rock gardens, perennial borders and xeriscapes. Its showy flowers, attract hummingbirds, butterflies and the Yucca Moth (Tegeticula yucasella). The latter, which has a codependent relationship with the yucca plant, carry large amounts of pollen from flower to flower. In return, the moths larvae get to eat part of the seeds produced.
Multiple ethnobotanical uses have been reported for Yucca filamentosa. Flower petals and fruits can be cooked and eaten. Fruits should have their seeds removed prior consumption. The roots contain a substance called saponin, which was used by the Catawba, Cherokee and other Native American tribes as a cleaning soap. The leaves of Yucca filamentosa are easily split into long strips, and were used to make threads to construct several functional items, such as fishing line and baskets. The foliage of this species has the strongest fibers native to North America.