Adam’s Needle: Edibility, Uses & Recipes

Adam’s Needle: Edibility, Uses & Recipes
Adam's needle (Yucca filamentosa) is a slow-growing evergreen shrub commonly used in Southwest landscaping. Closely related to many cacti and succulents, it is a yucca plant in the asparagus family that looks more like a perennial than a shrub. The plant's flowers, fruits, seeds and stalks are edible,

Read on to find out about this plant’s many versatile uses.

Yucca filamentosa plant profile

Scientific nameYucca filamentosa
FamilyAsparagaceae (asparagus family) or Agavaceae
Plant typeShrub, rhizome
PhylumVascular plant

Common names include:

  • common yucca
  • Adam’s needle yucca
  • Spanish bayonet
  • yucca
  • needle palm

Adam’s needle is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae that is native to the southeastern United States. An evergreen shrub with a height of 8 feet, it is valued for its architectural qualities in horticulture.

The mature plants, about four or five years old, will send up flower stalks from the center of the foliage in late spring or summer, which can double the height of this yucca plant. Nodding, white bells appear on the blooms.

Usually, the plant is characterized by a basal rosette of rigid, spine-tipped sword-shaped green leaves (up to 30″ long and 4″ wide) with long, filamentous curly threads along the margins.

Its leaves form a clump up to 2-3′ tall with curls along their edges, giving it its species name, filamentosa.

Late in spring, a flowering stalk rises from the center of each rosette, typically reaching 5-8 feet in height but rarely reaching 12 feet, bearing long panicles of white, showy bell-shaped flowers.

The fruits are elliptical dehiscent capsules. Over time, basal offsets will form a small colony.

Yucca filamentosa
Yucca filamentosa, Forest service photo by Tania C. Parra

Why is it called adam’s needle?

Adam’s needle gets its name from its long, sword-like foliage with sharp needle-like tips.

It appears that these straps of foliage are peeling away from each other as they are covered with tiny thread-like filaments around their edges.

Where does adam’s needle grow?

The yucca is a native plant of North America. In its native range, which extends from the beaches and sand dunes of South and North Carolina, south to Florida and Mississippi, the plant has escaped cultivation and is now found in New England, where it has expanded its range north. 

You can plant Yucca filamentosa in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 10, where it is very adaptable to all climate variations within those zones.

A plant of this species is capable of surviving temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit but may also survive temperatures as low as -10 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit if it is mulched during the winter months.

Although they do best in moderately humid conditions, they can acclimate to low humidity conditions as well. Due to its drought resistance and tolerance to sandy soils, this plant makes for an excellent low-maintenance houseplant.

Is Adam’s needle poisonous?

It is important to be cautious when using this plant, as it has purgative properties. The roots of Adam’s needle contain saponins, which are poisonous.

In spite of the fact that humans can eat the fruits and flowers of this plant, it is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.

What is Adam’s needle used for?

The Adam’s needle is one of the most useful plants to know for wilderness survival. It is edible, medicinal, and has been used for the following purposes:

  • fish poison
  • soap
  • cordage
  • needle and thread
  • a fire starter

A poultice made from the roots is used to treat:

  • sores
  • sprains
  • liver and gallbladder disorders
  • gonorrhea
  • rheumatism

In the past, skin diseases were treated by rubbing the roots on the skin or by taking a decoction of the roots.

It was used as a sedative to induce sleep, and infusions of the plant were used to treat diabetes.

Ropes, baskets, and mats are made from the fiber obtained from the leaves.

Make sure to check out our video for 5 more plants to forage for better sleep.

What parts of yucca is edible?

In addition to being edible raw, the flower can also be dried, crushed, and used as a flavoring. 

It is possible to cook the flowering stems and use them as asparagus. In many cases, experts recommend eating the petals cooked rather than raw since raw petals upset the stomach and cause dryness in the throat.

Adam's needle fruit, Source: Cathy Dewitt
Adam’s needle fruit, Source: Cathy Dewitt

What are the benefits of eating yucca?

The most impressive health benefits of yucca include:

  • its ability to boost the immune system
  • improve healing rates
  • boost heart health
  • optimize digestion
  • reduce cholesterol levels
  • ease arthritic pain
  • manages diabetes
  • improve cognition
  • in skin and eye care

How to eat yucca

Yucca flowers and fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. Prepare the fruit by halving it, scraping out the seeds and fibers, and sweetening it to your taste before wrapping it in aluminum foil and baking it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seeds can be roasted at 375°F until dry and ground roughly or boiled until tender.

You can also cook the stalk by peeling and cutting it into sections, then boiling it for 30 minutes.


Ana has always been interested in all things nature and flora. With her expertise in home gardening and interest in foraging, she has been spending her weekends and free time looking for edible native plants, flowers, and fungi. One of her many hobbies includes testing new savory and sweet recipes, juices or teas made from freshly picked plants, wild fruits, or mushrooms.

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