Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 266 Yucca filamentosa

Common Names: Adam's needle, bear grass, weak-leaf yucca Family: Agavaceae (agave Family)
Image Gallery

yucca flower
This closeup of a rain-soaked Adam's needle flower shows the beautiful white waxy petals that are both beautiful and edible!
yucca seed pod
The blossoms mature into pods that split open in autumn releasing the seeds.


Adam's needle looks a little like a small palm, but is actually more closely related to the lilies. The evergreen leaves of Adam's needle are straplike, about 1 in (2.5 cm) wide and up to 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) long. The leaves are basal; that is, they all originate from one point, taking the form of a rosette. The margins of the leaves are decorated with long curly threads or "filaments" that peel back as the leaf grows, eventually dropping off on older leaves. The inflorescence is very showy and borne on an erect spike up to 12 ft (3.7 m) high (taller in warm climates, shorter where winters are cold). There are up to several dozen individual flowers on an inflorescence, they are white and about 2 in (5 cm) long. The plant dies after flowering and fruiting, but produces lateral buds that start new plants around the edges of the original.

There are a number of variegated selections, the most popular possibly being 'Gold Sword' which has stripes of gold variegation down the center of the leaves while 'Bright Edge' has green centers with gold leaf margins. 'Gold Garland' also has gold variegation that is prominent on young leaves and transforms to green as the leaf ages. 'Ivory' has cream-colored variegation.

yucca garden
Typical and variegated yuccas (in bud) lend exotic interest to this drought tolerant midwestern (Zone 5) landscape.


Adam's needle, Yucca filamentosa, is native to southeastern North America from North Carolina to Florida and west to Tennessee and Mississippi. It grows in dry, sandy or rocky habitats and in fields, road shoulders and open woods. It has become naturalized far outside its original range.


Light: Prefers full sun, but will tolerate some light shade Moisture: Average to dry soil - drought tolerant Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 10. Propagation: By seed, root cuttings and offshoots. When you dig up a yucca to transplant, about a year later you often find the site ringed with baby yuccas growing from pieces of root left behind!


Use in mixed borders and natural areas. Excellent in rock gardens and as an accent among other perennials. Yuccas are very drought tolerant and do well in outdoor container even without supplementary irrigation. Combine with agaves, grasses, cactus and palms to create low maintenance Xeriscapes of interesting textures and forms.

yucca at poolside
Adam's needle is a great way to add a tropical note poolside - this yucca is very neat and has soft spines that won't needle swimmer's bare skin should they pass too closely (like some other, more vicious Yucca species)!


There is much confusion regarding how many species of Adam's needle there are. Some experts (the "splitters") recognize Y. flaccida, Y. smalliana and Y. concava, as separate species, and others (the "lumpers") lump them all with Y. filamentosa. Floridata "lumps" these species together as we reference the Institute For Systemic Botany at the University of South Florida for this kind of information. Only additional research (and DNA analysis) will settle the question of whether to split or lump!

The southeastern United States is home to another likable yucca that's known as mound-lily or Spanish dagger (Y. gloriosa). This one also has soft tipped flexible leaves and is a pretty and popular landscape item. Another frequently seen yucca is called the Spanish bayonet (Y. aloifolia). It is native to coastal areas from North Carolina to Florida and from there all along the Gulf Coast to Texas. It is a fierce but handsome plant with sharp tip points on the stiff leaves that can easily cause painful punctures - even through denim jeans! The flowers of many yucca species are edible and used raw in salads or cooked. Those from Adam's needle are said to taste like Belgian endive.

Steve Christman 10/20/97; updated 6/30/01, 7/19/03, 9/17/03, 11/1/12

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Yucca species profiled on Floridata:

Yucca aloifolia

( Spanish bayonet, dagger plant )

Yucca elephantipes

( spineless yucca, giant yucca )

Yucca filamentosa

( Adam's needle, bear grass, weak-leaf yucca )

Yucca gloriosa

( Spanish dagger, palm lily, mound-lily yucca )

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