What Is Banana Yucca?
Banana yucca (Yucca brevifolia) is a small evergreen shrub or small tree native to the southeastern United States. It grows up to 12 feet tall with a spread of 6 – 8 feet. Its leaves are alternate, oval, and 2 inches long at maturity. They have five leaflets each; two pairs of leaflets per leaflet. Leaves are opposite, short-lived, and waxy. The flowers are white or pinkish purple with 5 petals and a single stamen. Flowers bloom from April through June.
The plant produces a large number of seeds that fall into the soil after flowering. These seeds germinate within 24 hours and produce new plants in 3 months to 1 year depending on environmental conditions such as temperature, moisture level, etc.. The seeds are not poisonous but they do contain a toxic substance called glycosides.
Glycoside toxins cause severe irritation to the gastrointestinal tract and other organs if ingested. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, chills and weakness. If these symptoms occur when eating bananas eaten from the ground or cooked in their pods then it is likely that you ate contaminated bananas.
In addition to being edible bananas are considered a source of food for many animals including humans. It is eaten raw, cooked, baked, processed, or even distilled. The fruits can be cooked like vegetables when they are younger and still green.
The fruit can be cooked and eaten as a desert when it is very ripe. It can also be made into banana bread, pancakes, or even mixed with other fruit to make healthy desserts. Baked bananas can be made into banana chips. These are often salted and eaten as a snack, side dish, or appetizer. The plant is often distilled to make alcoholic beverages such as rum and other spirits.
Banana yucca is a short-lived perennial that grows in bunches from a woody rootstock. It prefers sandy soil that is dry most of the time. It can grow in full sun or partial shade but does better in dry conditions.
It requires well-draining soil so that it does not get waterlogged; otherwise, its roots and shoots can rot.
Banana yucca is a slow growing plant but can be grown from seed. The seeds are easily found in the desert after the plant flowers and sets fruit. It is important to remove the fleshy fruit before trying to germinate the seeds.
They should be planted immediately or stored in a sealed jar for up to a year. Before planting, the seeds need to be scarified and soaked in water for 24 hours.
You can speed up the process by scarifying and soaking the seeds first, then planting them immediately after removing the fleshy fruit. This allows you to start growing the plants in as little as a month.
You can grow banana yucca from a leaf cutting. Place the petiole (leafstalk) in a bowl of water and let it partially rot for a few days until it develops roots. Plant this small plant in soil and keep it well watered.
It should take root within a month and be ready for transplanting in 3 – 4 months.
A third method of propagation is to dig up a section of rootstock and transplant it. This can take some time since you have to go deep enough to get the rootstock but shallow enough so that you don’t hit rock or another root system. It can take from 6 months to a year for a new plant to develop.
Banana yucca plants can also be propagated by division but this is not recommended for beginner gardeners since the plants tend to have very fragile roots.
Banana yucca plants prefer full sun or light shade and need protection from the wind. The leaves are prone to sunburn so it should be planted in a location where it will not have exposure to the midday sun. It should be planted in a well-draining soil that is low in nutrients.
The soil can be amended with organic matter before planting but it should be fine without it.
A single plant can produce between 300 and 1000 seeds which are ripe when purple and the fruit is still soft. It is a good idea to let them dry out on the vine until they turn brownish before harvesting. Each fruit can be dried and stored for later use.
They can be eaten raw but are very bland so most people prefer to cook them. They can also be juiced or made into wine.
The fiber from the stems can be used to make rope or woven into cloth.
Banana yucca fibers do not contain any latex or resin so they are suitable for people who are allergic to those compounds.
The leaves contain a mild toxin so should not be eaten.
Banana yucca is a hardy plant so it does not require much care. It can be grown in a container or in your garden. It should be planted in well-draining soil that is low in nutrients.
It grows fairly quickly under optimal conditions reaching up to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide but can easily be kept smaller by trimming off new shoots.
It can survive long periods of drought but does produce more fruit with regular water.
It does best in a sunny location but can handle some shade. It does not do well in really hot locations and will tend to produce fewer fruits in these conditions.
The leaves are prone to sunburn so it should be planted in a location protected from the midday sun.
The other major factor in its care is keeping the soil healthy. It tends to prefer soil that is not fertile or too rich as this can promote disease and various problems with the plant. It is also susceptible to a wide range of fungal diseases so care should be taken to keep the plants free from spores.
Sources & references used in this article:
Encapsulation of nodal cuttings and shoot tips for storage and exchange of cassava germplasm by KE Danso, BV Ford-Lloyd – Plant cell reports, 2003 – Springer
First report of cassava mosaic disease and cassava mosaic geminiviruses in Gabon by JP Legg, F Ndjelassili, G Okao-Okuja – 2004 – cgspace.cgiar.org
Disease control in cassava farms: IPM field guide for extension agents by W Msikita, B James, E Nnodu, JP Legg, K Wydra… – 2000 – biblio1.iita.org
Leaf chlorophyll content and tuberous root yield of cassava in inland valley by MT Lahai, IJ Ekanayake, JB George – 2003 – biblio1.iita.org
Development of friable embryogenic callus and embryogenic suspension culture systems in cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) by NJ Taylor, M Edwards, RJ Kiernan, CDM Davey… – Nature …, 1996 – nature.com
Plant breeding: Induced mutation technology for crop improvement by FJ Novak, H Brunner – IAEA Bull, 1992 – pdfs.semanticscholar.org
Cryotherapy of shoot tips: a technique for pathogen eradication to produce healthy planting materials and prepare healthy plant genetic resources for cryopreservation by QC Wang, B Panis, F Engelmann… – Annals of Applied …, 2009 – Wiley Online Library