This plant with its formidable spiny leaves reminds one of a cactus, but it is closer to a lily. The rosette of leaves grows 18 to 36 inches tall. The plant is very common and conspicuous, single or growing in clumps of many individuals. Banana yucca was arguably the most useful plant to prehistoric Native Americans. The roots were pounded to make soap and shampoo. Leaves produced paintbrushes and cordage.
Many white fibers exfoliate from leaf margins. These leaf fibers were woven into sandals, rope, string, cloth, nets and thread. When just three of the fibers are twisted together, almost no one can break them.
The Banana Yucca flower stem grows to 5 feet or less. The hanging flowers are edible; they are large, yellow-white and bell-shaped. Summertime two to five inch fruits are also edible. Despite the name, the green fruits look more like large pickles than bananas.