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SPECIES: Yucca baccata



2005 George and Audrey DeLange

1994-2002 Bob Ribokas

Groen, Amy H. 2005. Yucca baccata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].


Yucca thornberi McKelvey [17].


banana yucca
datil yucca
Spanish bayonet

The currently accepted scientific name for banana yucca is Yucca baccata Torr. (Agavaceae) [54,64,66,68,74,87,110,136,143,144]. Accepted varieties include:

Y. b. var. baccata
Y. b. var. brevifolia (Schott ex Torr.) L. Benson & Darrow [66,136]
Y. b. var. vespertina (McKelvey) [38,58,66,67,91,98,145]

Hybrids: Banana yucca commonly hybridizes with Y. torreyi [142]. It is also known to hybridize with Don Quixote's lace (Y. treculeana)[110], Mojave yucca (Y. Schidigera) [58,142], and soapweed yucca (Y. glauca) [142].

Throughout this review, banana yucca will refer to all varieties of Y. baccata. A distinction between the varieties will only be made in the distribution and occurrence section and where information is available on site characteristics



Banana yucca is salvage and harvest restricted in Arizona [5,130] and is protected as a native species in Nevada [130].


SPECIES: Yucca baccata
Banana yucca is widespread in the southwestern states of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas [38,54,56,91,136,145], and has been identified in western Louisiana [144]. It is found in Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Sonora, Mexico [84], and is reported to occur in southern Australia [115]. Distribution of Y. b. var. baccata encompasses the entire range of banana yucca. Arizona and New Mexico have populations of Y. b. var. brevifolia, and Y. b. var. vespertina is found in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. A distributional map for banana yucca and its infrataxa can be found on the Plants database website.

FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES40 Desert grasslands

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)

Chih. Coah. Son.

3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
7 Lower Basin and Range
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont

K019 Arizona pine forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K027 Mesquite bosques
K031 Oak-juniper woodland
K032 Transition between K031 and K037
K033 Chaparral
K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K039 Blackbrush
K040 Saltbush-greasewood
K041 Creosote bush
K042 Creosote bush-bur sage
K043 Paloverde-cactus shrub
K044 Creosote bush-tarbush
K045 Ceniza shrub
K053 Grama-galleta steppe
K054 Grama-tobosa prairie
K058 Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe
K059 Trans-Pecos shrub savanna
K060 Mesquite savanna
K061 Mesquite-acacia savanna
K062 Mesquite-live oak savanna
K065 Grama-buffalo grass
K086 Juniper-oak savanna
K087 Mesquite-oak savanna

66 Ashe juniper-redberry (Pinchot) juniper
68 Mesquite
89 Live oak
237 Interior ponderosa pine
239 Pinyon-juniper
241 Western live oak
240 Arizona cypress
242 Mesquite

207 Scrub oak mixed chaparral
208 Ceanothus mixed chaparral
210 Bitterbrush
211 Creosote bush scrub
212 Blackbush
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
413 Gambel oak
414 Salt desert shrub
415 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany
416 True mountain-mahogany
502 Grama-galleta
501 Saltbush-greasewood
503 Arizona chaparral
504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
505 Grama-tobosa shrub
506 Creosotebush-bursage
507 Palo verde-cactus
508 Creosotebush-tarbush
509 Transition between oak-juniper woodland and mahogany-oak association
703 Black grama-sideoats grama
705 Blue grama-galleta
706 Blue grama-sideoats grama
707 Blue grama-sideoats grama-black grama
713 Grama-muhly-threeawn
718 Mesquite-grama
727 Mesquite-buffalo grass
728 Mesquite-granjeno-acacia
729 Mesquite
733 Juniper-oak
735 Sideoats grama-sumac-juniper

Banana yucca is the most widespread of the Yucca spp. [91]. In Arizona, it can be found in the Great Basin conifer woodland with juniper (Juniperus spp.) and pinyon (Pinus spp.) [22], in the interior chaparral with shrub live oak (Quercus turbinella) [101], in semidesert grasslands with black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda) [24], and in Mojave Desert scrub with creosotebush (Larrea tridentata) and shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia) [128].

Banana yucca is found among the fire-adapted Arizona chaparral communities, most commonly appearing in the shrub live oak-banana yucca-ashy silktassel (Garrya flavescens) association with sugar sumac (Rhus ovata), desert ceanothus (Ceanothus greggii), pointleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens), and Pringle manzanita (A. pringlei). It is also prominent in the Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica) -shrub live oak association where Emory oak (Q. emoryi), Arizona white oak (Q. arizonica), pointleaf manzanita, and bastardsage (Eriogonum wrightii) are found [31].

On an isolated island plateau in the Grand Canyon, banana yucca was found among Colorado pinyon (P. edulis) and Utah juniper (J. osteosperma) [62]. It occurs on the Kaibab Plateau with Colorado pinyon, Utah juniper, blue grama (B. gracilis), and Stansbury cliffrose (Purshia mexicana var. stansburiana) [112]. In northwestern Arizona it is found with Utah juniper, Stansbury cliffrose, and Nevada ephedra (Ephedra nevadensis) [107], while in the Hualapai Mountains of northeastern Arizona it is associated with singleleaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla)-Utah juniper and interior ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa var. scopulorum) communities [28].

Banana yucca constitutes 3.1% of canopy cover in the Dutchwoman Butte area of central Arizona. It exists alongside redberry juniper (J. coahuilensis), catclaw acacia (Acacia greggii), Parry's agave (Agave parryi), and tulip prickly-pear (Opuntia phaeacantha). The most common grasses in this area include sideoats grama (B. curtipendula), hairy grama (B. hirsuta), and plains lovegrass (Eragrostis intermedia) [4]. In this region it is also found in chaparral-type forests dominated by shrub live oak and true mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus) [102].

In southeastern Arizona banana yucca occurs in 3 community types: Emory oak-pointleaf Manzanita-sacahuista (Nolina microcarpa), shrub live oak-sacahuista-oneseed juniper (J. monosperma), and desert ceanothus-birchleaf mountain-mahogany (C. betuloides)-littleleaf sumac (Rhus microphylla) [140]. Throughout the state it can be found with stemless four-nerve daisy (Tetraneurisa caulis), and bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) [118]. Leaves of banana yucca have been found in fossilized woodrat middens on Picacho Peak where the shrub no longer grows [134].

In New Mexico banana yucca can be found on a variety of landforms. It occurs on alluvial fans with other perennials such as broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), tarbush (Flourensia cernua) [139], creosotebush, soaptree yucca (Y. elata), and honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) [121]. It was found on a lava flow in the Upper Sonoran zone with oneseed juniper, cactus apple (O. engelmannii), and fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens) [119]. In a Chihuahuan Desert arroyo, banana yucca can be found in limited abundance with desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa), netleaf hackberry (Celtis reticulata), tarbush, and honey mesquite [65].

On Mt. Summerford in New Mexico, banana yucca is found on the drier south and west aspects with other representative succulents such as Wheeler sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri), cactus apple, tulip prickly-pear, and purple prickly-pear (O. macrocentra) [88]. Soaptree yucca and tree cholla (O. imbricata) provide vertical structure on Otero Mesa where banana yucca is found among blue grama, black grama, hairy grama, threeawn grasses (Aristida spp.), tobosa (Pleuraphis mutica), and New Mexico feathergrass (Hesperostipa neomexicana) [108]. At Sandia National Laboratory it has been found with Colorado pinyon and oneseed juniper [89].

In the Organ Mountains of New Mexico, banana yucca constituted 6% of cover in chaparral vegetation zones, 2% in savanna and woodland vegetation zones, and 1% in desert grasslands. It was found with true mountain-mahogany, fendlerbush (Fendlera rupicola), gray oak (Q. grisea), and canyon sage (Salvia lycioides) [41]. In southern New Mexico banana yucca co-exists with alligator juniper (J. deppeana), interior ponderosa pine, and gray oak [43]. In the chaparral woodlands of the Central Peloncillo Mountains of southern New Mexico, it constitutes 1% of cover [96].

In southern California, banana yucca can be found in the Tecate Peak Grove with Tecate cypress (Cupressus forbesii), mission manzanita (Xylococcus bicolor), woolyleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus tomentosus), and chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) [6]. In the Mojave Desert region, it occurs with Cooper's goldenbush (Ericameria cooperi), white burrobrush (Hymenoclea salsola), and desertsenna (Senna armata) [35]. In desert shrub communities it can be found with Joshua tree (Y. brevifolia) and white burrobrush [117].

In Nevada, banana yucca is found within the high desert shrub subtype with blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima), shrubby deervetch (Lotus rigidus), bladdersage (Salazaria mexicana), and Eastern Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) [55]. In the southern region of the state, banana yucca occurs with shrubs such as mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana), green ephedra (Ephedra viridis), broom snakeweed [81], blackbrush, and Nevada ephedra [127]. It is associated with the graminoid foxtail chess (Bromus madritensis) [20], forbs such as pincushion flower (Chaenactis fremontii) and flatcrown buckwheat (Eriogonum deflexum) [20], and the Joshua tree [127].

Banana yucca in southwestern Utah is commonly associated with blackbrush communities [10,18,19,21,29,30]. It can be found with such exotics as foxtail chess [19,29,30] and cheatgrass (B. tectorum) [29,30], and occurs on ridgetops, upper slopes, and lower slopes with threadleaf snakeweed (G. microcephala) and broom snakeweed [21]. It is found alongside Utah juniper [10,19], Anderson wolfberry (Lycium andersonii), and antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) [10], and has been found with Mojave desertrue (Thamnosma montana) and desert almond (Prunus fasciculata) in a 37-year-old burn [30].

In southwestern Colorado, banana yucca occurs in Colorado pinyon-juniper-Gambel oak (Q. gambelii) and Gambel oak-serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) communities along with prickly-pear (Opuntia spp.) and milkvetch (Astragalus spp.) [123]. In Mesa Verde it associates with various plants in areas with diverse burn histories. In a 29-year-old burn area it was found with Utah serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis), mutton grass (Poa fendleriana), and hairy false goldenaster (Heterotheca villosa) [45]. It occurs with antelope bitterbrush and fendlerbush in a 90-year-old burn area, and with mutton grass and plains prickly-pear (O. polyacantha) in climax communities [46]. Banana yucca has also been found with Fremont's goosefoot (Chenopodium fremontii), Rocky Mountain milkvetch (Astragalus scopulorum), Johnston's knotweed (Polygonum douglasii ssp. johnstonii), and mountain snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus) 1 year after fire, and with prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola), showy goldeneye (Heliomeris multiflora), Utah serviceberry, and Gambel oak 2 years following fire [49].

In Texas, banana yucca is found with other important succulents such as lechuguilla (Agave lechuguilla), smooth-leaf sotol (D. leiophyllum), soaptree yucca, and Torrey's yucca (Y. torreyi) [135]. It is found on south-facing slopes in the Mount Livermore area with Colorado pinyon, gray oak, hairy grama, and true mountain-mahogany [59]. Its range extends into western Louisiana where it can be found south of the Arkansas River in rocky pinyon-juniper stands [144].

In Mexico, banana yucca can be found in the Madrean evergreen woodlands with rainbow hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus rigidissimus), barrel cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii), walkingstick cactus (O. spinosior), and tulip prickly-pear [23]. It is of moderate importance in the Tornilla clay bed region of northern Mexico where it occurs with creosotebush, tarbush, and lechuguilla [97], and can be found in the lower elevations of the trans-Pecos region with creosotebush, Texas barometer bush (Leucophyllum frutescens), lechuguilla, and Parry's agave [25].

Banana yucca occurs in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan desert systems. Vegetation typical of the Mojave Desert also includes creosotebush, Joshua tree, blackbrush, prickly-pear [141], and big galleta (Pleuraphis rigida) [36]. In the Chihuahuan Desert banana yucca occurred on 10% of 50 surveyed quadrats and could be found with creosotebush, lechuguilla, and range ratany (Krameria parvifolia) [116]. In the Sonoran Desert banana yucca is found in the pinyon-juniper woodlands and in creosotebush scrub [84]

In desert plains grasslands banana yucca can be found with honey mesquite, whitethorn acacia (Acacia constricta), catclaw acacia, and ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) [147]. Banana yucca is also a characteristic succulent in semidesert grasslands along with Torrey's yucca, Thompson's yucca (Y. thompsoniana), Mojave yucca (Y. schidigera), and Eve's needle (Y. faxoniana) [23]. It can be found on the center portion of the bajadas with both Joshua tree and Mojave yucca [86].


SPECIES: Yucca baccata

2003 Kenneth Ingham

George and Audrey DeLange

This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available [38,54,58,87,91,98,136,142,145].

Banana yucca is a native, perennial shrub. It can reach heights of up to 30 feet (9.1 m) [57] and has a stem supporting a dense cluster of leaves near the ground. Leaves are concave and rigid, supporting coarse, recurved fibers along the margins [38,54,56,87,98]. Leaf clusters are approximately 24 to 30 inches (60-75 cm) high and twice as wide [98] with individual blades reaching lengths of 20 to 40 inches (51-102 cm), widths of 1.25 to 1.50 inches (3.2-3.8 cm) [136], and ending at the apex with a stiff spine 1.5 to 7.0 mm in length [38].

Banana yucca produces both procumbent and rhizomatous stems. Procumbent stems are always aerial and terminate in a head of leaves. The rhizomatous stems are 3.1 to 5.9 inches (8-15 cm) in diameter, 7.9 to 21.7 inches (20-55 cm) long, and covered with thick bark. Adventitious roots sprout from the underside of the rhizomes, and 1 or 2 adventitious sprouts emerge from the upper surface. Rhizomatous stems are long-lived and can take the form of a complex net beneath the soil surface [142].

The flowers of banana yucca are in dense panicles [143,144] found mostly among the leaves [54]. The panicle is 12 to 36 inches (30.5-91.4 cm) long with 11 to 18 flowering branches [136]. The fruit is large, conical, and pendulous, varying from 5.9 to 7.9 inches (15-20 cm) in length [56]. Extended water storage is achieved through thickened leaves and leaf bases [100]. Banana yucca experiences crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), allowing carbohydrate stores built up in the summer and early spring to assist during the reproductive period in late spring [85]. Computer simulations have shown that a 3-year reproductive cycle is likely [139]. Seeds are 0.3 to 0.5 inches (8-12 mm) long and slightly ridged [98].

Stem succulent

Banana yucca is able to reproduce vegetatively through basal bud sprouts and rhizomes. It reproduces less frequently from seed [142].

Breeding system: Banana yucca is monoecious [105].

Pollination: Banana yucca is pollinated by the nocturnal pronuba moth [104]. Moths specific to banana yucca can remain in diapause for up to 30 years, emerging only when climatic cues are optimal for development [111]. These same moths may be responsible for the creation of Y. baccata x Y. schidigera hybrids [80].

Seed production: Seed production of banana yucca is plentiful [136,144]. Viable seeds depend on sufficient, high quality pollen transfer, adequate resources for seed development, and safe insertion of the yucca moth's ovipositor through the locular wall so as not to damage ovules [1]. In a study conducted to determine the effects of seed predation on banana yucca, 10% to 12% of seeds were lost to moth larvae. The total number of viable, uneaten seeds per fruit for banana yucca was 116 with very few of them being lost to predation [70]. Tenebrionidae larvae have the greatest effect on seedling survival, spreading bacterial and fungal infection to seeds and inflorescence stalks [139].

Seed dispersal: Banana yucca seeds are dispersed by vertebrates [150]. By consuming the fleshy outer portions of the fruit, rabbits and woodrats expose the seeds for dispersal [139].

Seed banking: No information is available on this topic.

Germination: Germination of banana yucca seeds has been studied in laboratory settings. Borland [15] found that with temperatures of 60 to 70 F (16 to 21 C), germination occurred in as few as 7 days. While researching the effects of heat on various yuccas, Keeley and Meyers [71] found that germination rates of banana yucca were highest when exposed to 194 F (90 C) temperatures for 5 minutes and plummeted to 0% when exposed for a period of 2 hours or to temperatures of 230F (110 C) and greater for more than 5 minutes. Germination was 84% when seeds were kept at room temperature.

Seedling establishment/growth: Very few seeds of banana yucca develop into seedlings [150]. Only 9 seedlings were counted in southern New Mexico during 4 years of observing seedling emergence [142]. Yuccas grow slowly and utilize the same leaves for many years; this reduces the amount of energy used in producing biomass [39].

Asexual regeneration: Asexual reproduction of banana yucca is achieved through the propagation of basal nodules and sprouts from rhizomes [142].

In general, banana yucca can be found on open dry plains, woodlands, slopes, and grasslands [38,54,71,142] at elevations ranging from 2,000-8,000 feet (610-2,438 m) [136]. It has adapted to a wide range of coarse- to fine-textured soils with varying pH levels [15] and is commonly found in areas where limestone is prevalent [17,84]. Precipitation in banana yucca habitat follows a bimodal pattern (rains in winter and summer) [34] and ranges from 3.0-25.6 inches (76-650 mm) annually [31,60]. Elevation ranges by state are provided in the table below:

State Elevation Range
Arizona 3,500-7,500 feet (1,100-2,300 m) [26,90]
California 4,600-4,300 feet (800-1,300 m) [58]
Colorado 5,500-7,900 feet (1,700-2,400 m) [45,56]
Nevada 2,700-8,000 feet (800-2,400 m) [67,91]
New Mexico ≥6,400 feet (2,000 m) [43,73]
Utah 4,700-8,000 feet (1,400-2,400 m) [21,125]

Banana yucca is found scattered throughout Arizona. Near the Grand Canyon and throughout central Arizona it can be found in poorly developed soils [4,102] composed primarily of limestone and quartzite with pH values ranging from 8.2 to 8.7 [62] and an average annual rainfall of 16.5 inches (419 mm) [93]. In the Hualapai Mountains of northwestern Arizona, banana yucca occurs in areas where granite outcrops and shallow, well-drained soils are characteristic [28]. On the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in southeastern Arizona it is common on rocky soils, canyons, washes, and slopes [140].

In southwestern Utah banana yucca exists in areas characterized by an average annual precipitation of 11.7 inches (296 mm) [21] and shallow soils with an average pH of 8.5 [29]. Temperatures range from -12 to 106 F (-24 to 41 C) with a mean annual temperature of 34 F (1 C). It can be found on east and southeast facing aspects in mixed alluvium derived from gneiss, limestone, sandstone, and schist. Slopes range from 2% [19] to 20% [21].

Banana yucca in New Mexico can be found in soils ranging from fine sandy loam [65,108] to undeveloped parent material near bedrock outcrops [89]. It occurs on an arroyo in the Chihuahuan Desert [65] and along the alluvial slopes of washes [139]. In the Organ Mountains it is considered to be more mesic than xeric and can be found on high-elevation south-facing slopes and moderate-elevation east and west exposures [41]. Banana yucca occurs on compacted and disturbed sandy soils in pinyon-juniper woodlands of southeastern New Mexico [73].

In Nevada banana yucca is generally found on west- and south-facing aspects of dry slopes and washes where precipitation averages 6 inches (152 mm) annually. Soils are primarily an alkaline limestone [122]. Site characteristics in southern Nevada include an average annual rainfall of less than 11.8 inches (300 mm), daytime relative humidity levels of less than 20% during summer months [81], and air temperatures that range from -11 to 117 F (-24 to 47 C) [83]. It occurs in dry washes and in areas with no significant slope exposure [20].

In the Mojave desert of southern California, banana yucca was recorded in a wash composed of alluvium at least 9.8 feet (3 m) thick [35]. It can be found on dry slopes [98] and in dry Joshua tree woodlands [58]. In southwestern Colorado it occurs on dry plains and slopes [56] on shallow, fine sandy loam soils [45].

Y. baccata var. brevifolia can be found in southeastern Arizona on undeveloped soils with mixed grasses and other desert shrubs [40]. It tends to occur in moist regions at elevations ranging from 3000 to 4000 feet (914-1,219 m). Y. b. var. vespertina occurs on hillsides and plains at elevations of 2000 to 7000 feet (610-2,134 m), taking root in a variety of soil types [13].

In Mesa Verde, Colorado, banana yucca was observed in 3 separate postburn environments and occurred at the highest cover and frequency, 13% and 40% respectively, 90 years following fire. It was observed with 6% cover and 16% frequency on a 29-year old burn and 2% cover and 14% frequency on a 4-century-old stand [46]. Elsewhere in Colorado banana yucca has been found 1 and 2 years after fire [49].

A study of fire effects on blackbrush communities in southwestern Utah revealed populations of banana yucca on unburned sites and sites of various time since fire. Banana yucca populations represented 0.1% mean cover on a 1-year-old burn, 1.6% mean cover on a 12-year-old burn, and 5.5% mean cover on a 37-year-old burn [30]. Banana yucca is distinct from other yucca species in that it does well in partially shaded environments [15].

Banana yucca builds up carbohydrate stores through the summer and early spring months to utilize during the reproductive period in late spring [85]. Flowering dates for banana yucca range from March to July [38,54,67,98,122,136,138,150] with plants at higher elevation flowering later in the season [142].


SPECIES: Yucca baccata
Fire adaptations: The ability of banana yucca to sprout from rhizomes and basal stem buds below the surface [142] likely increases its chances of survival in ecosystems prone to fire. This feature allows it to dominate some Sonoran desert plant communities after fire [2].

Fire regimes: Fires tend to be rare in both creosotebush and blackbrush Mojave Desert ecosystems [61]. In the blackbrush habitat of southwestern Utah, invasion of foxtail chess has increased the ability of fire to spread and may be shortening the fire return interval [19]. In pinyon-juniper ecosystems where fire historically occurred every 10 to 30 years, grazing has reduced fine fuel coverage and resulted in less frequent, lower intensity fires [148].

The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where banana yucca is found. Find further fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
California chaparral Adenostoma and/or Arctostaphylos spp. <35 to <100 [103]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 15-40 [8,27,95]
desert grasslands Bouteloua eriopoda and/or Pleuraphis mutica <35 to <100 [103]
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp. <35 [103,148]
blue grama-tobosa prairie Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis mutica <35 to <100 [103]
cheatgrass Bromus tectorum <10 [106,146]
California montane chaparral Ceanothus and/or Arctostaphylos spp. 50-100
paloverde-cactus shrub Parkinsonia microphylla/Opuntia spp. <35 to <100
mountain-mahogany-Gambel oak scrub Cercocarpus ledifolius-Quercus gambelii <35 to <100
blackbrush Coleogyne ramosissima <35 to <100
Arizona cypress Cupressus arizonica <35 to 200
juniper-oak savanna Juniperus ashei-Quercus virginiana <35
Ashe juniper Juniperus ashei <35 [103]
creosotebush Larrea tridentata <35 to <100
Ceniza shrub Larrea tridentata-Leucophyllum frutescens-Prosopis glandulosa <35
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. <35
Colorado pinyon Pinus edulis 10-400+ [48,53,69,103]
interior ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-30 [7,9,79]
mesquite Prosopis glandulosa <35 to <100 [92,103]
mesquite-buffalo grass Prosopis glandulosa-Buchloe dactyloides <35
Texas savanna Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa <10 [103]
California oakwoods Quercus spp. <35 [7]
oak-juniper woodland (Southwest) Quercus-Juniperus spp. <35 to <200 [103]
live oak Quercus virginiana 10 to<100 [137]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review

Small shrub, adventitious bud/root crown
Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil


SPECIES: Yucca baccata
Fire generally consumes the aboveground shrub layer of banana yucca [82]. Mortality rates of banana yucca after fire likely depend on water stress [115] and severity of damage sustained by the plant [102]. Live plant material is often damaged by adjacent dead plant material that burns at higher temperatures [72].

After exposure to temperatures of 230 F (110 C) and greater for more than 5 minutes, banana yucca seeds were not able to germinate in a laboratory setting [71], suggesting an inability of the species to repopulate from seed following fire.

The response of banana yucca to fire is variable depending on its location and occurrence with other species. Plants have been reported to sprout from "fleshy roots" 1 to 4 inches (2.5-10.2 cm) below ground, likely referring to rhizomes. Growth from the unburned portion of plant bases has also been recorded [72].

Where banana yucca occurs with chaparral associations, postfire regeneration favors a recolonization of the area with previously existing species [31]. In an oak-mountain mahogany chaparral ecosystem type, banana yucca made up 2.7% of crown canopy cover before a prescribed burn and 0.3% immediately afterwards. Percent canopy cover was measured annually thereafter for the next 5 years and constituted 0.5%, 0.3%, 0.9%, 1.1%, and 1.0% for 1,2,3,4, and 5 years after the fire, respectively. Fires were set in late September or October and brush was desiccated with herbicides 6 weeks prior to ignition to ensure shrub top-kill [102].

Two years after the August, 1996, Chapin 5 fire in southwestern Colorado, species recovery was observed. The number of points at which banana yucca was recorded in comparison to the number of points in each vegetation type were as follows [49]:

September, 1997 June, 1998 August, 1998
Shrubs 0.19 0.18 0.19
Pinyon-juniper/oak 0.07 0.08 0.10
Pinyon-juniper 0.14 0.06 0.12

Banana yucca populations in 3 previously burned blackbrush shrubland ecotones were significantly less (P<0.05) than populations in adjacent unburned sites. Seventeen years after a 1979 fire, the mean density of banana yucca was 0.40.03 individuals per 100 m, while on an adjacent unburned site plant density was 2.40.3 individuals per 100 m. Eight years after a 1987 fire, populations went from a mean density of 1.20.20 individuals per 100 m compared to no recorded individuals on the unburned plot. In the year following a 1995 fire, banana yucca had a mean density of 3.90.7 individuals per 100 m and the adjacent unburned site had 5.50.9 individuals per 100 m [82]. Banana yucca constituted 5.5% of absolute cover in southwestern Utah 37 years following a burn. Measurements were also conducted on 1, 2, 6, 12, 17, and 19.5 year-old burn sites and revealed absolute coverage percentages ranging from 0% to 1.6% [30].

Near Mesa, Arizona, populations of banana yucca decreased after the Vista Fire despite their apparent ability to survive fire in the area [2]. As a result of recent watering by local residents, banana yucca plants survived a fire that burned over private property in southern Australia during the hottest summer in 90 years [115]. For additional information on succession of banana yucca see Successional Status.

Fire in blackbrush habitat types where banana yucca is found can lead to undesirable forage species such as threadleaf snakeweed inhabiting the area [19]. Prescribed burning during fall months may protect banana yucca during reproductive periods, and burning after rain events may increase overall survivorship. Despite the negative effect that fire has on seeds, it is not likely to eliminate banana yucca because of its ability to resprout.

Increased amounts of Mg, Ca, K, Mn, P, and N are found underneath banana yucca after fire and may stimulate germination of other species such as coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata) [10]. Invasive species have the potential to modify severity, frequency, and seasonality of fires.


SPECIES: Yucca baccata
Banana yucca provides browse to a variety of livestock in Arizona [126]. In the Mojave Desert rangelands, domestic sheep and cattle do not utilize banana yucca as forage [60] although cattle have been observed eating the leaves in western Texas [99]. Deer often use banana yucca as a food source [12,55,90,122], searching out new leaves that sprout after fire and eating from the plant at a higher frequency than when it is not burned [72]. An analysis of various ungulate stomach contents revealed banana yucca fruit, flowers, and stalks in mule deer and flowers and stalks in white-tailed deer [90].

Banana yucca is consumed by elk in the pinyon-juniper woodlands of Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico [3]. Bighorn sheep browse on the leaves and fruit of banana yucca, and various parts of the plant are also utilized by small rodents [55], birds, and insects [12]. Although they are an insignificant part of their diet, javelina have been spotted feeding on the fruit of banana yucca [75].

Palatability/nutritional value: Banana yucca flower stalks are highly digestible and are an important source of phosphorus [132]. In Arizona the stalks provide 4% of mule deer dietary needs from May through June, adding protein, fiber, and calcium to their diets [131]. Banana yucca provides 1% to 5% of desert mule deer dietary needs during winter months [76] while providing less than 1% of the dietary needs for Rocky Mountain mule deer [78]. In Utah, it has moderate value as a food source for small nongame birds [42].

Cover value: In Utah, banana yucca provides poor cover for elk, mule deer, antelope and waterfowl. It provides fair cover for small nongame birds and small mammals, and good cover for upland game birds [42].

Propagation via basal nodules and young sprouts of banana yucca has proven successful [142] and may provide opportunities for colonizing sites where banana yucca previously existed. Banana yucca can also be grown from seed and bare root plantings and relocated to appropriate sites. Transplants were successfully grown in loam and silt, potted in peat and sandy loam, and transferred to a south-facing slope with sandy clay loam soils [122]. Banana yucca seeds are available commercially [129].

Banana yucca plants were salvaged from the East Mojave Desert by hand digging before mining operations. They were planted at a nursery site, and exposed roots were dusted with sulfur powder to reduce the risk of airborne infections. Between 1 and 2 years after relocation, 71% of banana yucca were in excellent condition (no yellowing of leaves), 15% were in poor condition, and 14% died (no green leaves remaining) [51].

Various Native American tribes have extended histories encompassing a wide range of uses for banana yucca. It has commonly been utilized as a food source [32] with fruits often consumed in their raw form before fully ripening [12,33]. Cakes were often made by pit roasting the fruits [114], grinding them into a paste, and drying the resulting material in the form of cakes [12] which could later be traded [114] or rehydrated and made into a syrup or jelly [44]. Fermented banana yucca has been used for beverages [67], its juices utilized as a preservative [33], and in northern New Mexico it was used to make rum [57]. Seeds were dried and ground up into meal, and central leaves were heated with soups or broiled with meat [12].

Banana yucca is preferred over other yuccas because of its strength [16] and many uses. Tough fibers extracted from the leaves have been used in home building [109] and to make products such as hair brushes, sandals, baskets, mats, fish nets, clothing, cords [12], brooms, and soaps [91]. Banana yucca is used for ceremonial purposes and as a remedy for vomiting and heartburn [44]. Approximately 40% of the fiber in banana yucca leaves is extractable [142].

A variety of insects utilize banana yucca stalks and pods, potentially benefiting the plant by allowing seeds to be dispersed after stalks with reduced vigor fall to the ground [94]. In New Mexico the yucca plant bug prefers banana yucca and consumes substantial portions of photosynthesizing plant material, possibly reducing growth [50].

Banana yucca habitat in south-central New Mexico is home to black-throated sparrow populations, containing "up to 44% of successful nests" [108]. In the Nevada desert uplands, banana yucca is found in habitat supporting Gambel's quail [55].

In a pinyon-juniper woodland in Arizona, banana yucca production declined from 5 kg/ha to 0 kg/ha after removal of the overstory [34]. A study conducted in New Mexico found that banana yucca populations increased when rabbits and cattle were reintroduced after 12 years of exclusion and shrub seedlings allowed to grow following 12 years of removal [11]. In U.S. wilderness areas banana yucca is considered resistant to trampling damage [37].

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