New Mexico State Flower

Information About The New Mexico State Flower - The Yucca Flower

Also, Yucca Elata; The Great Plains Yucca

The New Mexico state flower is the Yucca (pronounced “yuh-ka”) Flower.

There are many various types of yucca throughout the state and no single species has been named the state flower. The New Mexico Legislature officially adopted the Yucca flower on March 14, 1927.

However, one of the most notable species of yucca is the Yucca glauca, which is also known by the name soapweed yucca, soaptree, narrowleaf yucca, plains yucca, great plains yucca, and beargrass. Some people assume this is actually the state flower.

The New Mexico state flower is said to resemble a sword with its towering clusters of white flowers jutting out of sharp pointed dark green leaves.

The yucca thrives in New Mexico, despite the fact it is an arid desert, because they require only a small amount of water to survive.

Yucca Flower Characteristics

new mexico state flower, yucca glauca, yucca flower, great plains yucca

There are approximately 40 to 50 species of the yucca flower found across the state and a vast portion of southwest America. The physical features of the yucca glauca include spiky, almost thorn-like and brawny leaves. The leaves maintain an evergreen color and are form a starburst effect fanning around the base of the plant. Tall, fibrous stalks sprout from the center of this dark green bush and sprout at the apex a dense clump of white flowers.

The New Mexico state flower blooms during the spring and early summer. When the yucca flower is blooming it exudes a sweet, fragrant smell, which is not only pleasing to us, but also serves as an invitation to the Yucca moth, its prime pollinator.

The Yucca Moth

The Yucca moth (Tegeticula yuccasella) and the New Mexico state flower have a give-and-take relationship. The mutualistic pollination system relies on the yucca moth to transfer pollen from the stamens of one plant to the stigma of another; it is the only pollinator for the yucca glauca.

The yucca moth is perfectly designed to gather pollen from the flower.

The female yucca moth is responsible for pollination, which she does at night, and during which time she lays her eggs. After females lay their eggs, the larvae feed on the seeds in the yucca flower heads. Additionally, the flowers offer protection to the growing larvae.

The Yucca Flower In New Mexico

The New Mexico state flower has been given the title “Lamparas de Dios” or “Lamps of the Lord” by visitors. Early people designated the yucca flower as “Our Lord’s Candles”. This often refers to the yucca glauca species.

This name came about during the night when clusters of pale-yellow flowers are lit by the moon (we have almost no pollution), point toward the heavens and add luminosity to the desert’s dark nights.

The yucca glauca had many uses and benefits to the Native Americans. Early settlers of the land, particularly in the Southwest, used to weave and braid the leaves. They did this in order to make baskets, shoes, ropes & cords, thatch for roofs and more.

The New Mexico state flower is a cousin the Soaptree Yucca. This is where it gets the name soaptree and soapweed. The roots and "trunk" of the plant contain saponins which are naturally soapy. Native Americans ground the roots and made mild soaps and shampoos from it. Yucca root is still used in soaps and shampoos today.

yucca photo, pictures of yucca
Yucca Sunset. Courtesy Jim O'Donnell.
While the roots are not edible, the plant does provide nourishment. The fruit can be eaten raw or dried, baked, broiled, steamed, or pickled. The flowers can be eaten raw, candied, fried or sauteed. Some people even steam the stems and liken them to asparagus. We have yucca recipes, too!

The yucca glauca is popular in Western herbal tradition for a variety of uses. It is known for its effect on joint problems and arthritis and for reducing blood pressure. Read more about yucca root powder uses. It is effective for arthritis in animals, too!

The wood of the yucca plant has historically been used to start fires. It is excellent tinder.

Grow Your Own Great Plains Yucca!

Most commonly the yucca flower is planted for its ornamental attraction and ease of care. It is found prominently in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, as well as throughout the state. Read about yucca plant varieties for landscaping.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our state flower. The yucca has provided lifestyle benefits to people in the Southwest for centuries. Now, you can enjoy it also!

Related Pages:
New Mexico State History
New Mexico State Capital History
New Mexico State Flag
New Mexico State Bird