Our Lord’s Candle (Yucca whipplei)

Shrub
Y. funifera. Hesperoyucca funifera. Hesperoyucca whipplei.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Our Lord's Candle
Yucca whipplei
Agavaceae

A fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making ropes, baskets and mats[61, 82]. It is fine and white[92].

The leaves are used as paint brushes[92].

The roots are rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute[82].

  • Medicinal Use

    None known

  • Edible Use

    Fruit – raw or cooked.

    Flowers – raw or cooked[46, 61, 84]. They are delicious raw, and can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring[84, 164]. Young flowers have been parboiled and eaten, whilst older flowers have been boiled in three lots of water before being eaten[257]. This suggests the flowers are quite bitter[K].

    Flowering stem – raw or cooked[161]. It is best used when fully grown, but before the flower buds expand[95]. It can be peeled, cut into sections then cooked and used like asparagus[95, 164]. The roasted stems have been dried, ground into a powder then mixed with water to make cakes[257].

    Seed – cooked. It can be ground into a powder or cooked and used as a gruel[46, 61, 161].

  • Cautionary Notes

    The roots contain saponins[222]. Whilst saponins are quite toxic to people, they are poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass straight through. They are also destroyed by prolonged heat, such as slow baking in an oven. Saponins are found in many common foods such as beans[K]. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow spring in a greenhouse. Pre-soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water may reduce the germination time. It usually germinates within 1 – 12 months if kept at a temperature of 20¡c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer and consider giving them some winter protection for at least their first winter outdoors – a simple pane of glass is usually sufficient[K]. Seed is not produced in Britain unless the flowers are hand pollinated. Root cuttings in late winter or early spring. Lift in April/May and remove small buds from base of stem and rhizomes. Dip in dry wood ashes to stop any bleeding and plant in a sandy soil in pots in a greenhouse until established[78]. Division of suckers in late spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the following spring.
Thrives in any soil but prefers a sandy loam and full exposure to the south[11]. Requires a sunny position[11]. Prefers a hot dry position[166], strongly disliking winter wet[11]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[200]. Plants are hardier when grown on poor sandy soils[200]. Plants are hardy to at least -5¡c[200] and tolerate short periods down to -10¡c[187]. They grow well in the warmer maritime areas of Britain but need protection from winter rains[182]. Plants have survived to flowering at Kew and at Bodnant in N. Wales[187]. Cultivated as a fibre plant in Mexico[61]. A very ornamental plant[1], it requires late summer and autumn warmth to initiate flowering[11]. The flowers are sweetly scented[187]. Usually monocarpic, living for a number of years without flowering and dying after it does flower[11, 164]. Plants do produce suckers, however, and can be propagated by this means[78]. The flowers of most members of this genus can only be pollinated by a certain species of moth. This moth cannot live in Britain and, if fruit and seed is required, hand pollination is necessary. This can be quite easily and successfully done using something like a small paint brush. This species, however, is self-fertile and does not require the Yucca moth for pollination, setting fruit without hand pollination[11]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Members of this genus seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[233]
South-western N. America – S. California, Mexico.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.