by Kyle Sweet, Florida Master Naturalist
If you would like to grab some attention with your native island landscape, you might want to consider this week’s Sweet Shot, Yucca aloifolia, also known as Spanish Bayonet, Aloe yucca and Dagger plant. Here at The Sanctuary, this native grows all along the edges of the course, seldom receiving irrigation and requiring very little care. It offers dramatic texture and provides bright white bell-shaped flowers that attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees.
The Spanish Bayonet has dark green, stiff leaves that project from thick trunk-like stems. It can grow up to 15’ tall, but the height of this clump forming plant can be easily managed by trimming down the tallest trunks of this multi-stemmed plant. The leaves, which have a stiff needle-like tip can certainly be considered dangerous, so selecting a proper location away from walkways or where people or pets congregate would be a good idea. Many a football have surely been flattened by a stray pass striking a Spanish Bayonet, well at least for the Sweet boys in Central Florida as I do recall. Strategically, some landscape designers will use Spanish Bayonet as a security device, placing it beneath windows or other areas of building access.
The bell-shaped flowers, which have been in bloom all throughout the month of March here on the islands, are white with small amounts of light purple. They appear in both Spring and Fall and tower high above the dark green foliage, providing a bright white blast of white in the landscape. The blossoms are reported to be edible and can make a great addition to salads raw or served battered and deep fried.
Spanish bayonet can fit into almost any landscape in Florida, all throughout the state. Thanks to its high salt tolerance, it makes an excellent choice for coastal landscapes. Beyond the advantage of salt tolerance, it handles a variety of soil types as long as the soil is well – drained. It will grow best in full sun to partial shade but has been documented to grow well even in nearly full shade.
While the Spanish bayonet will fit into nearly any landscape, it can also be the foundation of your Xeriscape garden. Often, Xeriscape gardens are incorporated into specific areas of the landscaping such as a pool patio or sun-filled deck and require little to no water. In this application, be aware of the size potential of this plant.
If this plant is attractive to you, add a little drama to your island landscape with the Spanish Bayonet. This hardy, adaptable plant seems to be seldom used but can be appreciated if used in a safe planting location. Just in case, keep a backup football in the garage for the kids and grandkids!
• The leaves of the Spanish bayonet have been used for centuries for basket weaving, clothing and footwear.
• The large white flowers of the Spanish bayonet is a sweet culinary treat, eaten raw or fried.