Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae. Its 40-50 species are notable for their rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and large terminal panicles of white or whitish flowers. They are native to the hot and dry (arid) parts of North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Early reports of the species were confused with the cassava (Manihot esculenta). Consequently, Linnaeus mistakenly derived the generic name from the Carib word for the latter, yuca (spelt with a single "c"). It is also colloquially known in the midwest United States as "Ghosts in the graveyard", as it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards and when in bloom the flowers appear as an apparition floating.
Yuccas are widely grown as ornamental plants in gardens. Many species of yucca also bear edible parts, including fruits, seeds, flowers, flowering stems, and more rarely roots. References to yucca root as food often stem from confusion with the similarly spelled but botanically unrelated yuca, also called cassava (Manihot esculenta). Roots of soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) are high in saponins and are used as a shampoo in Native American rituals. Dried yucca leaves and trunk fibers have a low ignition temperature, making the plant desirable for use in starting fires via friction. In rural Appalachian areas, species such as Yucca filamentosa are referred to as "meat hangers". The tough fibrous leaves with their sharp spined tips were used to puncture meat and knotted to form a loop with which to hang meat for salt curing or in smoking houses.