Yucca aloifolia (Spanish bayonet)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Yucca aloifolia L.
Preferred Common Name
- Spanish bayonet
Other Scientific Names
- Yucca serrulata Haworth
- Yucca yucatana Engelmann
International Common Names
- English: Adam’s needle; aloe yucca; dagger plant; Indian bread plant; Spanish dagger
- Spanish: aguja de adán; bayoneta Española; cucarachita; espadilla; espino; flor de Jericó; itabo (Colombia); izote ; mata de huevo; pinguin; piñón de puñal; yuca
- French: bayonette
- Portuguese: iúca
- German: alöblättrige Palmlilie; graue Palmlilie
Local Common Names
- Germany: Palmlilie, Alöblättrige
- Sweden: tandpalmlilja
- UCCAL (Yucca aloifolia)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Y. aloifolia is an evergreen shrub in the Asparagaceae family that grows mainly in the coastal plain of the southern United States and Mexico along dunes, roadsides and in open coastal forests. Some sources also list it as native to islands in the Caribbean (Trelease, 1902; Jones and Goode, 1884; USDA-ARS, 2016). It is widely planted as an ornamental and living fence in temperate and tropical regions around the world and has the ability to spread by seed and vegetatively. It is listed as a transformative species in Plantas Invasoras en Cuba (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012). It is considered an environmental weed in New South Wales, Australia (Weeds of Australia, 2016) and invasive on coastal dunes in Valencia, Spain (Ferrer Marino and Donat, 2011). It has naturalized in scrublands of South Africa (Smith et al., 2012). In the USA it is naturalized in California (LSA Associates, 2010). There is no information on what environmental effects the species has on habitats, ecosystems or populations but since it can form dense stands (Sydney Weeds Committee, 2016), it is likely to compete with native species. The leaves are tipped with very sharp points and can cause an allergic reaction (Kanerva et al., 2001). There is no evidence that it is considered a weed in agricultural systems.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Liliales
- Family: Agavaceae
- Genus: Yucca
- Species: Yucca aloifolia
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Yucca aloifolia L. was described by Linnaeus in 1753 (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016), and is the type species for the genus Yucca. It was earlier described by Caspar Bauhin in 1623 as Draconi arbori affinis Americana (Sargent, 1896). There are many forms and varieties of the species (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016). Yucca serrulata and Y. yucatana are synonyms for Y. aloifolia (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016). The cultivar Y. aloifolia ‘Tricolor’ has green and white leaves (Gilman, 2014), tinged with red when young (Trelease, 1902). Yucca aloifolia ‘Marginata’ has leaves edged in yellow and Y. aloifolia var. draconis has a branching trunk with wider recurved leaves (Christman, 2004). The common names Spanish bayonet and dagger plant refer to the sharp and pointed tips of the leaves.
DescriptionTop of page
A multi-trunked shrub or small tree growing to 1 – 5 metres (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005; Gilman, 2014) with stems reaching 10.2 cm in diameter (Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Elongated evergreen leaves (30-60 cm long) with sharp-spined tips overlap around the trunk (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong 2005; Gilman, 2014). Dead leaves persist, eventually drooping against the stem (Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Leaf edges are very finely serrated (Gilman, 2014). Dense panicles of flowers (20-70 cm long) grow from the ends of the branches in spring to early summer (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong 2005; Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Flowers are bell-shaped with 6 thick, white tepals sometimes tinged with purple or green (Brown and Cooprider, 2012). The elliptical fruit is 6.3 - 8.9 cm long turning from green to black as it matures (Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Mature, indehiscent, fruits contain many flattened black seeds 6 mm in diameter in a purple pulp (Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Plants spread via rhizomes (Brown and Cooprider, 2012).
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
There is some dispute about the native range of this species. Most sources agree that it is native to Mexico and to the southeastern United States (Jones and Goode, 1884; Trelease, 1902; USDA-NRCS, 2016). Trelease (1902) states that it is also native to the Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and Bermuda. Jones and Goode (1884) say it is also native to Bermuda and the West Indies. Sargent (1896) says it naturalized in the West Indies and Jamaica and along the Mexican gulf coast shortly after European settlement.
Britton and Millspaugh (1920) describe it as occurring in Bermuda, Florida to Louisiana, Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico. It occurs from southern coastal Virginia south to Florida and in states along the Gulf coast from Florida to Texas (BONAP, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016). In the USA it is naturalized in California (LSA Associates, 2010) and may be naturalized in the more inland parts of the southeastern states (Sargent, 1896).
Y. aloifolia has also naturalized in Australia, especially in coastal districts of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia as well as Lord Howe Island (Weeds of Australia, 2016). Naturalized and cultivated in Pakistan in “the lower hills of the Punjab & NWFP regions and often grown as hedges” (Flora of Pakistan, 2016). In Europe it is naturalized along the coast of Spain near Valencia (Ferrer Marino and Donat, 2011). Cultivated widely and naturalized in two places in South Africa including Kwa-Zulu Natal and Free State (Smith et al., 2012).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 17 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Egypt||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced||1854|
|South Africa||Present, Localized||Introduced|
|China||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced||Cultivated in Guangdong|
|-Guangdong||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|Philippines||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|Italy||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|United Kingdom||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced||1603|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present||Introduced|
|Mexico||Present||Native||Yucatan, Veracruz, Chiapas|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Introduced||Possibly planted|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced|
|United States||Present||Native||Introduced in some parts of the country|
|-Arizona||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|-California||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: LSA Associates (2016)|
|-Hawaii||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|-North Carolina||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|-South Carolina||Present, Localized||Native|
|-Virginia||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|-New South Wales||Present, Localized||Introduced||Mainland and Bribie Island|
|-Western Australia||Present, Localized||Introduced|
|Cook Islands||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|French Polynesia||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|New Caledonia||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive|
|Norfolk Island||Present, Localized||Introduced||1970||Invasive||On landslide|
|Brazil||Present, Localized||Introduced||Sao Paulo|
|Chile||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||Juan Fernandez Islands|
|-Galapagos Islands||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Either Y. aloifolia or the closely related Y. gloriosa was cultivated in Europe since before 1605 (Trelease, 1902). It was described by Caspar Bauhin in 1623, presumably from a specimen in Europe (Bauhin, 1623; Sargent, 1896). Y. aloifolia was cultivated in the Royal Garden at Hampton Court in England in 1696 (Miller and Martyn, 1807). It is described as escaped from cultivation in northwestern Louisiana as early as 1902 (Trelease, 1902). Byrne (1980) reports some plants escaped from horticulture in the Bahamas on Cat Island. Cultivated in Belgium at least since 1882 (Morren, 1882).
Dates of introduction to Australia and South Africa are unknown, but in South Africa the first naturalized populations were recorded in 2012 (Smith et al., 2012). Plants were cultivated in Australia since at least 1883 (Guilfoyle, 1883). In South Africa, plants mainly appear to spread vegetatively from plants planted as living fences (Smith et al., 2012).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Europe||North America||1605||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Yes||No||Trelease (1902)|
|UK||North America||1603||Horticulture (pathway cause)||No||No||Pulteney (1790)|
|Australia||North America||1883||Horticulture (pathway cause)||No||No||Guilfoyle (1883)||‘Variegata’ cultivar|
|Norfolk Island||By 1970||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Yes||No||GBIF (2016)||Naturalized on a landslide below planting|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
In the USA and Mexico, most populations grow in the sandy coastal plain along dunes and inland for 30-40 miles with oaks and pines (Sargent 1896). Plants are tolerant of salt spray (NPIN, 2016). It is found on the margins of brackish marshes (PFAF, 2016).
Frequently occurs along roadsides and in disturbed areas in its introduced range (Acevedo-Rodríguez, 1996; GBIF, 2016). Hundreds of plants are naturalized on a landslide on Norfolk Island, Australia (GBIF, 2016) and it has naturalized on basalt substrate in New South Wales, Australia (GBIF, 2016). Y. aloifolia ccurs on fixed dunes and roadsides in a few locations in Spain (Ferrer Marino and Donat, 2011; GBIF, 2016). It grows on sand dunes in Australia (GBIF, 2016).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production)||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Principal habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Rocky areas / lava flows||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal dunes||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal dunes||Principal habitat||Natural|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Y. aloifolia forms a homoploid hybrid, Y. gloriosa, with Y. filamentosa. All three species are diploid (Rentsch and Leebens-Mack, 2012). Chromosome number of Y. aloifolia: 2n=60 (Matsuura and Suto, 1935).
The native pollinators of Y. aloifolia are the yucca moths Tegeticula yuccasella and T. cassandra (Rentsch and Leebens-Mack, 2014), but fruit set occurs outside of the range of these pollinators. Although most yuccas require a specialized pollinator, this fruit and seed set of Y. aloifolia away from its normal pollinators was found to be due to pollination by European honeybees (Apis mellifera) (Rentsch and Leebens-Mack, 2014). Brown and Cooprider (2012), however, report that the plant produces few fruits where the specialist pollinator is limited.
Seeds require cold stratification (NPIN, 2016).
Physiology and Phenology
Leaves are evergreen (Gilman, 2014). Plants flower from March to June in Florida, April to July in Jamaica, and fruits mature from summer into autumn (Adams, 1972; Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Y. aloifolia uses CAM photosynthesis (Heyduk et al., 2016).
One reference describes plants as living 25-50 years (AUB Landscape Plant Database, 2016).
Plants prefer to grow on well-drained, sunny to partly sunny sites (NPIN, 2016) in USDA hardiness zones 6-11 (Gilman, 2014). The plant can be grown on acid, neutral and alkaline soils, ranging from light to heavy in texture, and can grow in nutritionally poor soil, but prefers well-drained soil. It can tolerate drought, and grows in semi-shade or full sun (PFAF, 2016).
ClimateTop of page
|Af - Tropical rainforest climate||Preferred||> 60mm precipitation per month|
|Am - Tropical monsoon climate||Preferred||Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||-18|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||17||25|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||29||33|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||8||24|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||0||8||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||450||1570||mm; lower/upper limits|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
The agave snout weevil, Scyphophorus acupunctatus lays eggs in the base of the plant. Introduced microorganisms cause the plant to collapse and die. Mealybugs, scale, thrips and weevils also feed on adult plants (Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Leaf spotting diseases include Anthracnose, Coniothyrium or brown leaf spot and Cytosporina (Brown and Cooprider, 2012).
Two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) infestations can slowly kill plants (Kelly and Olsen, 2008).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Seeds are held in a sweet, sticky pulp, and have been observed to be dispersed by mockingbirds in their scat (Webber, 1895). Fruits that dry out eventually fall off the plant and disperse as the pods disintegrate (Webber, 1895).
“Spread by humans, contaminated soil (earthmoving equipment, car tyres etc) and garden refuse dumping” (Sydney Weeds Committee, 2016).
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Botanical gardens and zoos||Planted as an ornamental||Yes||Yes||BGCI (2016)|
|Breeding and propagation||Seed and cuttings||Yes||Yes||Dave's Garden (2016)|
|Escape from confinement or garden escape||Yes||Sydney Weeds Committee (2016)|
|Garden waste disposal||Yes||Sydney Weeds Committee (2016)|
|Horticulture||Yes||Yes||Smith et al. (2012)|
|Internet sales||Yes||Yes||Dave's Garden (2016)|
|Landscape improvement||Yes||Smith et al. (2012)|
|Nursery trade||Yes||Smith et al. (2012)|
|Ornamental purposes||Yes||Smith et al. (2012)|
|People foraging||Edible fruit||Yes||Gilman (2014)|
|Seed trade||Yes||Yes||Dave's Garden (2016)|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Economic/livelihood||Positive and negative|
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
|Human health||Positive and negative|
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
Impact on Biodiversity
No studies were found that addressed impacts on biodiversity. Plants form monocultures (Sydney Weeds Committee, 2016) which could displace native plants and animals.
Social ImpactTop of page
Some people have an allergic reaction after being pricked by Y. aloifolia leaves (Kanerva et al., 2001).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Long lived
- Reproduces asexually
- Modification of fire regime
- Monoculture formation
- Causes allergic responses
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
UsesTop of page
Plants are sold as ornamentals (Dave’s Garden, 2016) and used as security fences (Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Fibres are used to make rope, baskets, clothing and footwear (Flora of Pakistan, 2016; Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Leaves and roots are used medicinally (Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 2016; Keller, 2001). Extracts of the roots contain saponins used for washing (Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Flowers can be eaten raw or fried (Brown and Cooprider, 2012). Fruits are edible (Gilman, 2014; Keller, 2001).
Uses ListTop of page
- Boundary, barrier or support
- Landscape improvement
- Botanical garden/zoo
- Sociocultural value
Human food and beverage
- Potted plant
- Propagation material
- Seed trade
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Y. gloriosa can be confused with Y. aloifolia (Gilman, 2014). “Leaf margins on Spanish dagger (Yucca gloriosa) are smooth, whereas those on Yucca aloifolia (Spanish bayonet) are rough. The outer halves of the leaves on Spanish dagger also bend toward the ground, whereas those on Spanish bayonet do not” (Gilman, 2014).
Another common ornamental yucca, spineless yucca (Y. elephantipes) is also similar in appearance. “Spineless yucca is a large shrub or small tree with one to several trunks and grows to more than 20 feet tall. The trunks are gray, rough and are leafless in taller specimens except at the very end. The base of the plant becomes swollen with age, often clustered with suckers. The leaves are longer than those of the Spanish bayonet and not as tightly packed. Leaf margins are smooth and leaf tips are spineless. The rachis of the inflorescence is partially exposed. Unlike Spanish bayonet, spineless yucca does not spread by rhizomes” (Brown and Cooprider, 2012).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Plants can be dug out removing all plant parts from infested sites to avoid regeneration from any remaining material (Sydney Weeds Committee, 2016).
Plants can be treated chemically using a foliar spray or cut stump treatment (Brisbane City Council, 2016). McGinty and Kidd (2009) compared a number of broadcast herbicide treatments for Yucca spp. in Texas, where recommended control was by Cimarron Max [including metsulfuron-methyl + dicamba] plus 2,4-D. The most effective treatments included GF2050 (aminopyralid + metsulfuron) in mixture with Remedy Ultra (triclopyr).
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
Little information is available on the economic costs or environmental harm caused by Y. aloifolia despite its listing as a weed or invasive plant in several countries. Seed dispersal has not been studied since 1895 (Webber, 1895) and there are conflicting reports on its native range.
ReferencesTop of page
Acevedo-Rodríguez P, 1996. Flora of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands., Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden, 78:1-581
Acevedo-Rodríguez P, Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1192 pp. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution. http://botany.si.edu/Antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm
Adams CD, 1972. Flowering plants of Jamaica. Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies. 848 pp.
Archbold Biological Station, 2016. Nuisance plants. Florida, USA. http://www.archbold-station.org/html/linkpgs/nuisanceplants.html
AUB Landscape Plant Database, 2016. Yucca aloifolia. American University of Beirut. http://landscapeplants.aub.edu.lb/Plants/GetPDF/859c55a3-a7c5-49e5-979a-ea037ad3707e
Bauhin C, 1623. Pinax theatri botanici. Basel, Switzerland. http://bibdigital.rjb.csic.es/ing/Libro.php?Libro=1442
BGCI, 2016. Yucca aloifolia. Botanic Gardens Conservation International. https://www.bgci.org
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Brown SH, Cooprider K, 2012. Yucca aloifolia. University of Florida, IFAS Extension, Lee County. http://lee.ifas.ufl.edu/Hort/GardenPubsAZ/Spanish_bayonet.pdf
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Flora of Pakistan, 2016. Flora of Pakistan/Pakistan Plant Database (PPD). St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Tropicos website. http://www.tropicos.org/Project/Pakistan
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HEAR, 2016. Alien species in Hawaii. Hawaii Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, USA: University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/AlienSpeciesInHawaii/index.html
Heyduk, K., Burrell, N., Falak Lalani, Leebens-Mack, J., 2016. Gas exchange and leaf anatomy of a C3-CAM hybrid, Yucca gloriosa (Asparagaceae)., Journal of Experimental Botany, 67(5):1369-1379 http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/content/67/5/1369.abstract
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Kanerva, L., Estlander, T., Petman, L., Mäkinen-Kiljunen, S., 2001. Occupational allergic contact urticaria to yucca (Yucca aloifolia), weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), and spathe flower (Spathiphyllum wallisii)., Allergy (Copenhagen), 56(10):1008-1011
Kartesz JT, 2016. The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). Chapel Hill, USA: Taxonomic Data Center. http://www.bonap.org/
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Rentsch JD, Leebens-Mack J, 2012. Homoploid hybrid origin of Yucca gloriosa: intersectional hybrid speciation in Yucca (Agavoideae, Asparagaceae)., Ecology and Evolution, 2(9):2213-2222
Rentsch, J. D., Leebens-Mack, J., 2014. Yucca aloifolia (Asparagaceae) opts out of an obligate pollination mutualism., American Journal of Botany, 101(12):2062-2067 http://www.amjbot.org/content/101/12/2062.short
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07/03/2016 Original text by:
Sylvan Kaufman, Sylvan Green Earth Consulting, Santa Fe, USA
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