The Yucca plant can be found in many locations throughout the American West, and is native to arid places in North America, South America, Central America, and the Carribean. It's very hard to mistake the genus for something else. A bushy clump of sword-shaped spikes promise pain to any creature who would dare touch the white flowers that blossom on a central stalk.

Up on Mesa Verde, many years ago, the ancient Pueblo (according to wikipedia, and tour guides) cultivated the Yucca plant for fibre, and foodstuff. Dried Yucca flowerstalks are also an excellent firestarter for the bow and drill method.

The US Forestry service notes that approximately 40% of the mass of the Yucca leaf is recoverable as fibre. This makes it a prime source for survival cordage. I did some more research after returning home from Colorado, and found that the species of Yucca used in this instructable is Banana Yucca, or Yucca Baccata, a plant of many uses. Yucca Baccata has the strongest internal fibre of all Yucca plants, and is quite common across the American Southwest. Link to Database Entry on Yucca Baccata

I won't go into all the specific uses, but understand that a yucca cord is easy to make with few or no man-made tools in hand. The cord I have made so far is easily 15+ lb breaking strength, for only a few twisted fibres. In the following steps I will explain how to harvest and prepare the fibre for further use. Due to the slow growth rate, I recommend you reserve Yucca cordage for critical applications only.

Disclaimer: None of the Yucca used in this Instructable was harvested where the gathering of wild plants is prohibited.

Step 1: Necessary Tools

To harvest and process Yucca, you will need a high-tech assortment of rocks.

Three or four rocks is all that is necessary.

  • A rock with a sharpish edge -- This rock isn't really important. You need this rock to cut the Yucca leaf away from the rest of the plant. It can be replaced with a pocket knife if you so desire.
  • A large flat rock -- This rock can be sandstone, heavier the better. It can even just be a handy rock outcropping (I suggest you find a shaded area, unnecessary work in the sun sucks)
  • A hard rock with a blunt edge -- This is your scraper, and the most important & durable rock in the set of tools. You want to use an igneous or metamorphic rock. Sedimentary rocks usually aren't going to be hard enough. You can even use your fingernail.
  • A smooth, heavy rock -- This is your hammer. You will use it to beat the fibres apart.

Once you have acquired a cutting rock, a work-table rock, a scraping rock, and a hammering rock, you are ready to go cut some Yucca.

Step 2: Finding & Harvesting Yucca

To harvest and identify Yucca you must first find Yucca

Yucca likes to grow in rocky and sunny areas that are mostly dry. You're unlikely to find it in a well-watered area as the roots rot easily in wet soil. Make sure that the taking of plants is not prohibited where you're searching for Yucca.

The plant is an evergreen and likes to spread via animals, judging by the appearance of the seeds. The fruits and seeds are both edible, I feel that they smell similar to an uncooked zucchini when cut open. Since the seeds harden as the fruit ripens, it may be advantageous to treat them as cucurbits, and eat the fruits before they're fully mature, cooking them first. When the rain comes, excreted seeds are often washed downhill--and therefore you should look for Yucca in places where water would naturally flow in occasional rainstorms--such as gullies. As a bonus, you can also use the fruits to bait snares you might make out of Yucca cordage!

Small leafed Yucca ought to be avoided unless absolutely necessary, as they take much more work to harvest and process for a given amount of fibre. They also may be young Yucca. Yucca grow slowly. Don't cut all the leaves off of a Yucca plant, and select leaves from the outside of the plant when you cut, as those will be the oldest leaves. This will probably stress the plants less. There are usually enough Yucca around to harvest enough fibre for limited use.

The best Yucca for fibre harvest are the ones with the longest, largest leaves. Unless you're making textiles, a huge bundle of leaves will be unnecessary as a single Yucca leaf yields quite a bit of useable fibre (40% of the mass of the leaf). To harvest, bend a leaf down so that the base of it lies against a rock, or the ground, and carefully bash it with your cutting rock until the leaf is severed.

Step 3: Breaking the Yucca

Laying your Yucca leaf against your flat, heavy, working stone, bash it with your hammering stone, breaking down the structure of the Yucca leaf. The better you break the Yucca down in this step, the easier the scraping step will be. Be patient. Take your time. Your goal is to beat it down so that it lays flat against your work-surface.

Step 4: Scraping

After breaking the Yucca flat, take your scraping stone and gently scrape away the parts of the plants that aren't fibre. Alternate which side you scrape, and try to continually scrape in the same direction. I like to scrape from the point of the leaf down to the base of the leaf, and then cut off & discard the tip as there are fewer fibers there.

Scrape until you have cleaned almost all the residues off the fibres.

Step 5: Washing and Finishing

The last step in processing the fibres is to wash them repeatedly. You can even let them soak overnight. Scrape them again if necessary. Now however you have some excellent fibres that can be used for fishing lines, snares, or any other task that requires cordage. I would suggest dampening them before you work them into a line as it improves the workability of the material, and allows it to stretch more, so that when it dries and shrinks, the resulting line will hold together very well.

A small 2-ply line, hand-twisted, tests at a break strength exceeding 15 lbs. As few as six individual fibres can be hand twisted into a workable fishing line of about a foot. Based on these figures and experience, a single Yucca leaf will yield approximately 5 feet of workable cord . A single plant with 20-30 leaves could yield as much as 150 feet of thin 2-ply line and could be further braided into stronger, and stronger ropes.

At this point I would like to refer you to the many Instructables related to Wilderness Survival, the Outdoors, and Rope Crafts. Try em with Yucca fibre sometimes. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.

Step 6: Final Notes and Recommendations

For reasons of swelling and stretching, wet your Yucca fibres before twisting them into cordage. When a wet-twisted Yucca cord dries, it shrinks, and your cordage holds together even better. However if you work the fibres dry, they might stretch, expand, and fail, when exposed to moisture.

-- For those of us who don't feel compelled to do without modern tools, the addition of a cheap comb to separate the fibre, and a pocket knife can speed things up significantly.

-- If you harvest Yucca from the wild, please take the time to scatter the seeds about. Yucca takes a while to grow to harvestable, or fruiting, size. Yucca Baccata sometimes grows for eight years before it fruits. There's no reason to wipe out your local wild stocks of Yucca in a mad rush for cordage. If you see yourself using the fibres for crafts, please take the time to cultivate some of this plant in your garden.

-- My interest in making fibre and cordage from natural materials was initially sparked by Phyzome's excellent Instructable: Make Rope Out of Dead Plants with No Tools. Using the hand-twisting method he describes, I was able to create cordage that could easily suffice as a fishing line. There is also a thigh-rolling method for making cordage that should work as well, however when wrapping thin lines, hand twisting seems to work better.

-- For conservation reasons, use Yucca cordage made from wild stock for only critical applications such as fire-making, fishing, or making bows & snares. Other cordage, if available, is preferable for things such as lashing a few sticks together.

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable as much as I enjoyed making it. Now get out there and make something.

very cool! I have been trying to make natural cordage with some other plants reed and cattail this one seems a lot easier. Not really in my area though.
<p>Beautiful use of a few Yucca leaves.<br>Not to encourage wanton digging, but Yucca roots make a fabulous baked custard like dish. Our college American Indian studies professor fed us a feast with that one time. (Sorry I don't have the recipe, but some Mexican markets or Philipeno (sp?) markets may have the resources.)</p>
<p>The Agave Yucca roots are not edible although you may make shampoo out of them. You are thinking of cassava</p>
<p>Perhaps it was Yuca which is different? I'm sorry I can only remember the lady with a thick accent saying what sounded like &quot;Yuca&quot; which I assumed was Yucca. Oh well, I'll have to revisit one of those places where it's made to make sure I get it straight. Thanks for the help. :)</p>
<p>谷歌翻译是我的一切。我不说中国话。</p><p>Google translate is all I have. I do not speak Chinese.</p>
<p>I already translated this Instructable into Chinese and posted as comment. If this is inappropriate than I will remove my comment. <br>Thank you for your great Instructable. I'm very enjoyed it when I'm translating this. =w=b </p>
<p>You honor me with your translation.</p>
<p>Thank you</p>
<p>Gretbot, I understand the reason for your icon and I approve the intended show of support for the innocent.<br></p>
<p>Translated into Chinese by me:</p><p><br>利用原始工具处理丝兰纤维</p><p>原文链接:<a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Processing-Yucca-Fibre-with-Primitive-Tools/" rel="nofollow">https://www.instructables.com/id/Processing-Yucca-Fibre-with-Primitive-Tools/</a></p><p>丝兰能在美国西部多处地区找到,也会出现在北美、南美、中美洲和加勒比的干旱地区。这植物不容易和其他属的植物搞混,这一丛浓密的剑状尖刺植物保证能弄痛任何一个敢碰它中心白花的生物。</p><p>根据Mesa <br>Verde,多年以前,普韦布洛人(根据维基百科和旅游手册)栽培丝兰以便获取纤维和用来进食。干燥的丝兰也是一个极好用作弓钻生火的器具。</p><p>美国林业服务指出大约40%的丝兰叶可采做纤维。这也让它成为了野外生存的绳索的主要来源。从科罗拉多州回来后,我多做了一些研究,发现这篇Instructable里所使用的丝兰的种类是&ldquo;香蕉丝兰&rdquo;(Banana <br>Yucca或是Yucca <br>Baccata),一种多用途植物。这种丝兰拥有所有丝兰里最坚固的内部纤维,它在美国西南部也非常常见。#链接见原文</p><p>这里我不会写出丝兰的所有用途,不过要知道的是,丝兰绳能在少数或没有人造工具的情况下做出来。我做出来的绳子有超过15磅(越6.8公斤)的断裂强度,而且只用了几根缠在一起的纤维。在接下来的步骤里,我会解释如何采收丝兰和制作纤维以用作其他用途。由于成长速度慢,所以我建议将丝兰绳索用在关键的应用上。</p><p>免责声明:没有任何一个在这篇Instructabel的丝兰是取自于禁止采收野生植物的区域。</p><p>步骤一:必要工具</p><p>为了采收丝兰,你需要一些&ldquo;高科技&rdquo;石头。</p><p>你共需要三至四块石头:</p><p><br> <br>-&gt;一块有锐角的石头:这块石头并不是很重要。这块石头的用途是将丝兰从丝兰丛里切割下来,你可以用小刀来完成如果你要的话。</p><p>-&gt;一块又大又平的石头:这可以是砂石,越重越好。这也可使是一块卡在地上的石头(我建议在有遮荫的地区寻找这块石头,在太阳底下工作烂透了!)</p><p>-&gt;一块有钝角的硬石头:这将成为你的刮刀,也是你的石头组里最重要和最耐用的石头。你可以使用火成岩或变质岩,一般来说沉积岩并不够硬。你也可以用你的指甲。</p><p>-&gt;一块光滑且笨重的石头:这将成为你的铁锤。你用它来将纤维锤散。</p><p>一旦你收齐了你的切割用石头、工作平台石头、刮刀石头和铁锤石头,你就可以去开始切割一些丝兰回来了。</p><p>步骤二:寻找并采集丝兰</p><p>在采收和辨认丝兰之前,你必须先找到丝兰。</p><p>丝兰喜欢在多石并且阳光充足的干燥地带,你会很少在水分充足的地区找到它们,也就是那些根部容易生在潮湿泥土的地区。请确保你采收的丝兰并不是生长在禁止采收野生植物的地区。</p><p>这种植物属于长青植物,常用动物来散播,使用它的种子来分辨丝兰。丝兰的果实和种子都是可食用的,我觉得它的果实切开来后的味道像是生的西葫芦。随着果实的成熟,种子也会变硬,处理它们最好的方法应该像处理葫芦这样,并且在果实完全成熟前吃掉它们,当然要先煮过。当雨天来临时,被排出的种子会被冲下坡,所以你必须根据在雨天时水流的方向去寻找它们,像是在凹沟里。另外,你也可以用丝兰的果实来当作诱饵。</p><p>除非真的有必要,不然尽量避免使用小叶的丝兰,毕竟它们需要更多精力来处理以便获取相同分量的纤维。它们也可以是年轻的丝兰。丝兰成长速度很慢,不要把丝兰的叶子全部切光,并且选择只切割最外围的叶子,这些也是最年长的叶子。这将会减低对丝兰的伤害。在多数的情况下一个区域会有足够的丝兰丛来取得足够的纤维。</p><p>最好用来制造纤维的丝兰叶是那些最长、最大的叶片。除非你要制作纺织品,一大捆短丝兰叶相对于单片长丝兰叶来说是没有必要的,一位内一片丝兰叶能产出一些可用的纤维(约叶片重量的40%)。采收丝兰叶的方法是将它的叶片拉低,并且靠在一块石头上,然后小心地用你的切割用石头敲击叶片直到完全脱离为止。</p><p>步骤三:分解丝兰叶</p><p>将你的丝兰平放在你的又大又平的工作用石头上,用你的铁锤石敲击,并且打散丝兰叶的结构。在这个步骤里你打得越散,待会的刮除工作就会越容易。有耐心点,花点时间。你的目标是将他敲平直到它平平地躺在你的工作台上。</p><p>步骤四:刮除工作</p><p>在你将丝兰叶分解了后,是用你的刮刀石,轻轻地刮除叶面上不是纤维的物质。轮流刮除叶面的两侧,然后尝试只从一个方向刮除。我比较喜欢从叶尾往叶头(切割时的部位)的方向刮,然后将叶尾(尖的部分)切除,因为那边的纤维较少。</p><p>持续刮除工作直到几乎剩下纤维为止。</p><p>步骤五:清洗和完成工作</p><p>最后一个步骤是将纤维重复地清洗。你也可以将它们浸在水里隔夜。有必要的话可以再进行刮除的工作。现在也许你有了一些优质的纤维来用作钓鱼线、圈套或是其他需要绳索的工作。我建议在编织成线之前先弄湿它们,这将改善它的可操作性,也让它能伸展更多一点,以便它干燥后能缩水,把整体结构抓得更紧。</p><p>一段由2丝(两条纤维)组成的手搓线,有超过15磅(约6.8公斤)的断裂强度。只需要少数的6根纤维就能用手编织成一条大约1尺的能用钓鱼线。根据这些数字和经验来说,一片丝兰叶能生产出大约5尺的可用绳索。一丛有20-30片叶片的丝兰能生产出多达150尺的薄的2丝绳索,它们可以进一步编织成更强韧的绳索。</p><p>在这里我想要你去参考更多关于野外求生、户外和绳索工艺的Instructable文章。有时候能用你的丝兰绳来试试这些方法。我希望你像我一样非常享受这个过程。</p><p>步骤六:最后事项和建议</p><p>由于膨胀和拉伸,你在把你的丝兰纤维编织成绳索之前必须先弄湿它们。当在潮湿的情况下编制好的绳索干燥后,它会收缩,所以你的绳索会缠得更紧。然而如果你在干燥的情况下编制你的绳索,遇水时你的绳索可能会膨胀、伸长然后失效。</p><p>--对于那些不介意使用现代工具的人,一个便宜的梳子能用来分离那些纤维,然后一把小刀可以让工作的进度变得更快。</p><p>--如果你从野外采收丝兰,花点时间将它的种子撒在四周。丝兰需要一定的时间来成长至可采收、结果的程度。Yucca <br>Baccata有时要花上8年的时间才结果。你没有理由为了要赶着制造你的绳索而野生的丝兰走向灭绝之路。如果你觉得你要用这些纤维来制作东西,花点时间来将它们栽种在你的后院里。</p><p>--我用纤维和自然材料制作绳索的兴趣来源是起自于Phyzome的Instructable:不需任何工具利用已死的植物来制作绳索#链接见原文。利用他所解释的用手搓绳的方式,我有能力做出用作鱼线的细绳。还有一个较扎实的搓法也能做出一样的功能,可是当编制细纤维时,用手搓会比较好。</p><p>--为了保护丝兰,请将野生的丝兰只用在关键的物品上如生活、钓鱼或是制作弓和网。至于如果有其他种类的绳索,建议用在其他事情上如把树枝绑在一起。</p><p>我希望你能像我一样享受这篇Instructable,所以现在就动身然后去做出些东西吧!</p><p>-翻译:QJ Neo</p><p>-原文归Instructable的Psickattus所有。</p>
<p>Made a few informational and organizational edits, also added some notes on conservation. </p>
<p> a top survival tool</p>
How helpful if really needed! Thank you for taking the time and energy. Very thorough and good follow up information included.
At some point it was a popular yard plant in Arkansas. You find it all over and deep in the woods where old homes once were but no other traces left.
We can even grow it up here in Massachusetts (Zone 5). It's commonly available at many garden nurseries, and makes a great accent plant in the landscape. Perfect for hot, dry spots with poor soil, as long as it drains well. In the late spring, it throws up a very striking tall stalk of flowers. They do tend to spread out quite a bit, so trimming the oldest, lower outside leaves is usually necessary to keep the plant in good shape.<br><br>If you know an ardent gardener, you probably know someone with a yucca plant! <br><br>Thanks for this inspiring instructable! I do a lot of work with fiber, especially making cords and braiding - this will be an exciting new material for me to try. And now I envision my new herb garden &quot;anchored&quot; with some majestic yucca plants.
<p>I'm glad you found it inspiring. I only hope that I get to see Yucca fibre used in more projects. The pre-Colombian Native Americans were able to use it for many things--even for making stone axes to cut down hard juniper trees. </p>
<p>Very interesting and useful. Thanks for sharing.</p>
<p>Informative and well done. Keep up the great work.</p>
<p>This is really interesting! I want to try it, but we don't have yucca where I live.</p>
<p>You might be able to find it at a garden center, depending on your climate. Yucca is not Yuca</p>
<p>And if your climate is wholly unsuitable, you could grow it in a pot. Yucca just likes well-drained, seldom-watered sandy &amp; rocky soil</p>

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Bio: I'm a gardener, and have been one for the past twenty or so years. I also tend to dabble in a great many other ...
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