February 2021 EcoQuest - Soapweed Yucca

Yucca glauca, or soapweed yucca, is a common plant in the foothills and plains. Although not currently in bloom, Yucca glauca is readily distinguished by long, narrow, and sharp-pointed evergreen leaves which are crowded into basal rosettes. Yucca glauca is the only native species of yucca in the greater metro area, also making it easy to identify. Yuccas are also used as ornamentals – they are drought tolerant and attractive additions to the landscape.

Soapweed yucca has many indigenous uses as well – the dried leaves of yucca can be made into rope, or woven into baskets and even sandals. And as the name implies, the roots can be crushed to produce a soapy juice that can be used as a shampoo or even treatment for minor skin irritations. Soapweed yucca is not to be confused with yucca or cassava root, commonly found in grocery stores and actually a different species altogether – Manihot esculenta.

Yuccas and yucca moths (Tegeticula sp.) are a classic example of a plant and animal symbiotic association, where each species requires the other to survive. Yucca flowers can only be pollinated by yucca moths, and yucca fruit is the only food source for larval yucca moths. Together, these species work in harmony to survive. It is currently too cold for yucca moths to be out, but be on the lookout for these tiny, white moths this summer.

See if you can locate soapweed yucca as you venture outside this winter and help Denver Botanic Gardens document its range by photographing as many plants as possible in the month of February. Post your findings to iNaturalist so they will automatically be added to the February 2021 EcoQuest as well as Denver EcoFlora Project.

Yucca glauca:

EcoQuests, part of the Denver EcoFlora project, challenge citizens to become citizen scientists and observe, study, and conserve the native plants of the City via iNaturalist, an easy-to-use mobile app.


  1. Download the iNaturalist app or register online at iNaturalist.org
  2. Take photos of the plants in bloom that you find on your daily neighborhood walk. It is ok if they are weeds! But avoid taking photos of cultivated plants in gardens or in your home.
  3. If you are concerned about revealing the location of sensitive organisms or observations at your own house, you can hide the exact location from the public by changing the "geoprivacy" of the observation to "obscured."
  4. Post your findings on iNaturalist via the app
  5. Your observations will automatically be added to the Denver EcoFlora Project
  6. You can add an identification to your photo when you post your findings on iNaturalist, or leave it blank for others to identify.

The EcoFlora project is designed to meaningfully connect citizens with biodiversity, and to assemble novel observations and data on the metro area’s flora to better inform policy decisions and conservation strategies.

Posted by jackerfield jackerfield, February 04, 2021 16:29


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