Yucca elata – Soaptree Yucca

Yucca elata - Soaptree Yucca

Yucca elata - Soaptree Yucca (flower stalk)

Yucca elata - Soaptree Yucca (flowers)

Yucca elata - Soaptree Yucca (leaves)

Plant Name

Scientific Name: Yucca elata

Synonyms: Yucca angustissima var. elata, Y. utahensis, Y. verdiensis

Common Name: Soaptree Yucca

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial, Evergreen

Growth Habit: Tree, Shrub, Unusual Shrub

Arizona Native Status: Native

Habitat: Desert, Upland. It is most common in desert grasslands.

Flower Color: Cream to white

Flowering Season: Spring (late), Summer

Height: Up to 20 feet (6 m) tall without the flower stalk, but usually less

Description: The flowers are loosely clustered at the tops of up to 6 foot (1.8 m) long flower stalks. The individual flowers are drooping, bell-shaped, and 2 inches (5 cm) long. The flowers are followed by 3-chambered, green drying to brown seedpods. The leaves are either in a basal rosette (young plants) or in a rosette atop a short to tall main trunk (older plants). The leaves have sharply pointed tips and narrow white margins and are long, narrowly linear, green, tough, leathery, and white-filiferous (producing white strings). The dead leaves turn brown and droop to cover the trunks. The plants are clump-forming.

The similar Sierra Madre Yucca (Yucca madrensis) has leaves with narrow red margins and either no strings or only a few gray or brown strings, while Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata) has leaves with narrow brown margins and white strings.

Special Characteristics

Edible – The flower petals from the flowers or buds are edible either raw or cooked.

Legal StatusProtected Native Plant (Salvage Restricted)

Poisonous – The roots contain toxic saponins and were used to make soap.


Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
Subclass: Liliidae
Order: Liliales
Family: Agavaceae – Century-plant family
Genus: Yucca L. – yucca
Species: Yucca elata (Engelm.) Engelm. – soaptree yucca

More About This Plant

Arizona County Distribution Map