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Medical disclaimer: always check with a physician before consuming wild plants, and make positive identification in the field using a good source such as Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West.  Michael Moore also has a glossary of medical terms in his books, and maps in later editions. ) 
 #100
Common Name: Yucca, Joshua Tree, Spanish Bayonet, Spanish Dagger, Soaptree
Latin Name: Yucca aloifolia, Y. angustissima, Y. brevifolia, Y. constricta, Y. elata, Y. filamentosa, Y. glauca and others.
Family: Agavaceae
Range: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUCCA all states except Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska,  Minnesota, New England north of New York and Massachusetts – also found in Alberta and Ontario, Canada – main database
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUAL Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, N. and S. Carolina, Florida, (Yucca aloifolia)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUAN2 Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona (Yucca angustissima)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUBA California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas (Yucca baccata)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUBR California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah (Yucca breviflolia)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUEL Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas (Yucca elata)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUFI all states east of the Mississippi R., except Vermont, New Hamshire and Maine on the west side of the Mississippi R. – Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas (Yucca filamentosa)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUGL all states between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi R., except Minnesota and Louisiana; also found in Alberta, Canada (Yucca glauca)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUGL2 Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, N. and S. Carolina (Yucca gloriosa)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUHA Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma (Yucca harrimaniae)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YURE2  Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia (Yucca recurvifolia)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=YUSC2 California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona (Yucca schidigera) 
Photos: (Click on latin name after common name.)
Warnings: The roots contain saponins. Whilst saponins are quite toxic to people, they are poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass straight through. They are destroyed by prolonged heat, such as slow baking in an oven. Saponins are found in many common foods such as beans. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc. in order to stupefy or kill the fish. PFAF website warnings apply to all Yuccas.
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#100(a)
Common Name: Aloe Yucca, Spanish Dagger (Yucca aloifolia)
Appearance and Habitat: Aloe yucca or spanish dagger is a slender-stemmed plant, 6-12 ft. high (sometimes taller) with a stocky, branched or unbranched trunk. The evergreen leaves are thick and stiff and up to 2 ft. long, with tiny, sharp serrations on the margin and a very sharp tip. Whitish, pendulous flowers, about 3 in. wide, occur in erect clusters up to 2 ft. long, and are followed by fruit which becomes pendent. Evergreen shrub or small tree often with stout clustered trunks that are sometimes branched, with sprouts at the slightly swollen base, and with bayonetlike leaves crowded and spreading at top. Tolerant of salt and suitable for planting along sandy shores, Spanish Bayonet is easily propagated from sprouts. Several cultivated varieties have striped or colored leaves. The fruit is eaten by birds and sometimes by humans, and the flowers can be served as a salad or cooked. Pioneers made rope and string from the fibrous leaves. (1)Sand dunes of the coast, occasionally up to 60km inland, in pine forests. Also found on the margins of brackish marshes in Southeastern N. America – North Carolina to Florida, west to Loiusiana, naturalized in S. Europe. An evergreen tree growing to 7.5 m (24ft 7in) at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 8. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen in September.(2)
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. A thick, succulent mass of bitter-sweet juicy flesh. The fruit is up to 10 cm long and 4cm wide. Flowers – raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, or can be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. A crisp texture. Flowering stem – peeled and boiled. Used like asparagus. (3)
Medicinal Uses: The fruit is purgative. The boiled and mashed root, mixed with oil, has been used as a salve in the treatment of various complaints.  (4)
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#100(b)
Common Name: Narrowleaf Yucca (Yucca angustissima)
Appearance and Habitat: Sandy places, sandstone outcrops, rocky hillsides of deserts at elevations of 900 – 2200 meters in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. An evergreen shrub growing to 0.4 m (1ft 4in) at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 8. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jun to July.
Edible Uses: Fruit – the immature fruit is cooked. Baked in an oven. A bitter taste, the bitterness is in the skin. The fruit is about 6cm long and 2.5cm wide. Flowers – raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, or can be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. Flowering stem – peeled, cooked and used like asparagus. The whitish inner portion is used.
Medicinal Uses: None
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#100(c)
Common Name: Datil, Banana Yucca, Blue Yucca, (Yucca baccata)
Appearance and Habitat: This yucca usually occurs as a single, stemless plant but sometimes grows in clumps with short, reclining stems. The narrow, spine-tipped leaves are up to 30 in. long and occur in an open cluster which is often wider than the leaves are high. The flowering stem is up to 40 in. tall and bears large, pendant, fleshy, white flowers with a red-purple tinge. Fruits are fleshy and banana-shaped. Rigid, spine-tipped leaves in 1 or several rosettes, and a long cluster of large whitish flowers on a stalk about as tall as the leaves. Identification of the many Yucca species is often difficult. Those with broad leaves are sometimes called Spanish Daggers, a name generally applied to the tree-like species of western Texas. Plain Identification of the many Yucca species is often difficult. Those with broad leaves are sometimes called Spanish Daggers, a name generally applied to the tree-like species of western Texas. Plains Yucca (Y. glauca), common from the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains eastward almost throughout the plains and prairies of the central United States, is a small species with narrow, gray-green leaves.(1)Rocky slopes, pinyon, oak, and juniper woodlands, grasslands at elevations of 400 – 2500 meters in South-western N. America – Colorado to Texas, California and Mexico. An evergreen shrubgrowing to 0.9 m (3ft) at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 7. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower in August.
(2)
Edible Uses: Fully ripe fruit – raw, cooked or dried for winter use. A staple food for several native North American Indian tribes, the fruits are large, fleshy, sweet and palatable. The ovoid fruit is about 17cm long and 7cm wide. Considered to be a luxury by the native North American Indians, the fruits were often baked in ovens. The cooked fruit can be formed into cakes and then dried for later use. Large quantities of the fruit has caused diarrhoea in people who are not used to it. The dried fruit can be dissolved in water to make a drink. Flower buds – cooked. A soapy taste. The older flowers are best, they are rich in sugar. The flowers, harvested before the summer rains (which turn them bitter), have been used as a vegetable. Flowering stems – cooked. Harvested before the flowers open then roasted. Seed – cooked. It can be roasted and then ground into a powder and boiled. The tender crowns of the plants have been roasted and eaten in times of food shortage. The young leaves have been cooked as a flavouring in soups.
(3)
Medicinal Uses: An infusion of the pulverized leaves has been used as an antiemetic to prevent vomiting. The fruits have been eaten raw as a laxative. (4)
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#100(d)
Common Name: Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Appearance and Habitat: A tree-like yucca, Joshua-tree grows 5-40 ft. tall, with a columnar, much-branched trunk forming a weird and picturesque, open crown. The stiff, blue-green leaves, 8-14 in. long, have yellow margins. The broad flower spikes are short (usually less than 3 ft.) with a candelabra of side branches graced by 1 1/2 in., bell-shaped, fragrant, creamy-white flowers. A picturesque or grotesque, narrow-leaf evergreen tree with short, stout trunk; open, broad crown of many, stout, widely forking, spreading, and sometimes drooping branches; and spiny, daggerlike leaves. Joshua Tree, the largest of the yuccas, is the characteristic tree of the Mojave Desert and has come to symbolize the area. The Mormon pioneers named this species Joshua, because its shape mimics a person praying with uplifted arms or gesturing wildly, referring to the Biblical leader pointing the way to a Promised Land. It is abundant at Joshua Tree National Monument in southern California and Joshua Forest Parkway in western Arizona. Native Americans made meal from the seeds and a dye for decorating baskets from the reddish rootlets. Red-shafted flickers drill holes in the branches to make nests, which are later occupied by other birds. The desert night-lizard lives in the dead leaves and branches, and woodrats gnaw off the spiny leaves for their nests. The foliage was the primary staple in the diet of the extinct giant sloth.(1) Arid mesas and mountain slopes, usually at 650 – 2200 meters. South-western N. America – California to Utah. A evergreen tree
growing to 9 m (29ft 6in). It is hardy to zone 7. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower in June, and the seeds ripen in September.
(2)
Edible Uses: Flowers – cooked. The flower buds, before opening, can be parboiled in salt water to remove the bitterness, drained and then cooked again and served like cauliflower. The opened flowers are rich in sugar and can be roasted and eaten as candy. Fruit – cooked. The fruits can be roasted then formed into cakes and dried for later use. Root – raw, boiled or roasted. Seed. Gathered and eaten by the local Indians. No further details are given, but it is probably ground into a powder and mixed with cornmeal or other flours and used for making bread, cakes etc. Immature seedpod. No more details given.(3)
Medicinal Uses: None (4)
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#100(e)
Common Name: Buckley Yucca (Yucca constricta)
Appearance and Habitat: Occasional in brushy and open areas. Stem below the leaves often not present; when present more or less prostrate. Leaves stiff, sharp pointed, up to 2 feet long by 5/8 inch wide, with white fibers curling from their margins, clustered at the ends of stems or at the ground line. Flowers showy, greenish white, bell shaped, up to 2 inches long by 1 inch wide, borne in a large, branched cluster on a tall stalk, the stalk and flowers combined as much as 10 feet tall. Fruit a capsule up to 2 1/2 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide, opening from the tip.

(1) Limestone outcrops and rocky prairies in Southern N. America – Texas to Gulf of Mexico. An evergreen perennial growing to 1.5 m (5ft). It is hardy to zone 9. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to August.(2)
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. Flowers – raw or cooked. Delicious raw, they can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. Flowering stem – cooked and used like asparagus.(3)
Medicinal Uses: None (4)
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 #100(f)
Common Name: Soaptree Yucca, Palmilla, (Yucca elata)
Appearance and Habitat: This is a 5-20 ft., tree-like yucca with fine, arching, gray-green to blue-green leaves with white margins. Plants resemble coarse bunchgrass when young, gradually developing several heads on trunk-like stems with age. The flowering stem in 3-7 ft. long with 25-30 side branches covered with clusters of creamy-white, bell-shaped flowers. The brown, woody seed capsule is interesting. Evergreen, palmlike shrub or small tree with single trunk or several clustered trunks; unbranched or with few upright branches and very long, narrow leaves. Growth is extremely slow, about 1 (2.5 cm) in height a year. The local name Palmilla, Spanish for small palm, refers to the resemblance of this species to a palm.(1)Mesas, desert washes, plains and desert grasslands, and in deserts, normally between 500 – 2000 meters in Southern N. America – Texas, Arizona, northern Mexico. An evergreen shrub growing to 2 m (6ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 9. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October.(2)
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit is a dry capsule up to 5cm long and 36mm wide. Seedpods. We are not sure how this differs from the fruit but one report mentions edible fruit as well as an edible seedpod. Flowers – raw or cooked. Delicious raw, they can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. The flowers are boiled and eaten as a vegetable. Used in preserves. Flowering stem – cooked and used like asparagus. The stems were slow baked for several hours, then dried and broken into pieces to store. They would be soaked in water to soften them before being eaten.(3)
Medicinal Uses: None (4)
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#100(g)
Common Name: Adam’s Needle, Spoonleaf Yucca  (Yucca filamentosa)
Appearance and Habitat: A 6 ft. flowering stalk rises above 2-3 ft. high clumps of erect, dagger-like, blue-green leaves. The flowers are cream-colored and are followed by persistent seed pods. A tall, stout stem rises from a rosette of rigid, sword-like leaves and bears a loose cluster of white, nodding, bell-shaped flowers. Although yuccas are more typical of western deserts and grasslands, some are native in the East. This species escapes from cultivation in the northern part of its range. Soapweed (Y. glauca) is a typical species of the western Plains, found east to Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas; its rigid, bayonet-like leaves have hairy edges, and the flowering stalk, reaching a height of 4 (1.2 m), bears a flower cluster, the base of which is reached by the leaf tips. Spanish Bayonet (Y. aloifolia), found from North Carolina south to Florida and Alabama, has toothed leaves with hairless edges. Yucca fruit can be cooked and eaten after the seeds are removed; the large petals are used in salads. Yuccas depend on the Yucca Moth as their agent of pollination, and these moths depend on yuccas for food. At flowering time the female moth gathers a mass of pollen from the anthers of the yucca and then flies to another yucca flower, where she deposits a number of eggs into the ovary among the ovules (immature seeds). Next, she places the pollen mass on the stigma of the flower, thus ensuring pollination and subsequent development of the ovules into seeds. As the seeds enlarge, they become the food source for the moth larvae. Many of the seeds remain uninjured and are eventually dispersed, potentially producing new plants. At maturity, the larvae leave the seed capsule, drop to the ground, and pupate. The adult moth emerges next season as the yuccas begin to flower.(1)Sand dunes, waste ground and pine forests along the coastal plain in South-eastern N. America – Southern New Jersey to Florida. Naturalized in S. Europe. An evergreen shrub growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in) at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone 4. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to August.(2)
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. Large and fleshy. The fruit is often dried for winter use. Flowers – raw or dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. A tasty addition to the salad bowl. We have found the flowers to be fairly bitter. Flowering stem – cooked and used like asparagus.(3)
Medicinal Uses: Medicinal Parts: Leaves and roots of non-flowering plants. A poultice made from the roots is used in the treatment of sores, skin diseases and sprains. Liver and gallbladder disorders.(4)
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 #100(h)
Common Name: Soapweed Yucca, Plains Yucca, (Yucca glauca)
Appearance and Habitat: A 3-4 ft. wide clump of pale-green, dagger-like leaves subtends the 4 1/2 ft. flowering stalk of this yucca. The 20-30 in. long leaves are evergreen, persisting for several years. Bell-shaped, greenish-white, pendulous flowers are followed by woody, oblong, cream-colored seed capsules. Soapweed Yucca is a member of the agave family (family Agavaceae). Agaves are stout plants with woody stems or stem-bases, often tall, even tree-like, the long and narrow leaves crowded in rosettes at ends of stems or branches, a stout rapidly growing flower stalk arising from the rosette. Members of this family are from tropical or warm regions, often where it is arid. There are about 20 genera and 700 species, many of which supply valuable fiber, such as sisal hemp.(1)Dry plains and sandy hills in Central N. America – Iowa to Texas and N. Dakota. An evergreen shrub growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 4. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to August.(2)
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. Dry, with a bitter skin. The fruit can be baked and either eaten immediately or formed into cakes and dried for later use. The raw fruit can be dried for winter use. The immature fruits are peeled, boiled and served with seasonings. The soaked, cooked fruit can be made into a syrup and used like hot chocolate. The fruit is up to 8cm long and 12mm wide. Flowers and flower buds – raw or cooked. Delicious raw, they can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. A delicious addition to the salad bowl, or used as a potherb. Flowering stem – raw or cooked. It can be cooked and used like asparagus. The white inner portion of the stem is eaten. Seedpods – cooked. They can be boiled or roasted and used as a vegetable. The plant crowns have been roasted and eaten in times of food shortage.(3)
Medicinal Uses: A soap made from the crushed roots is said to be an effective treatment for dandruff and skin irritations. A cold infusion of the root has been used to expedite the delivery of a child or the placenta. The root is poulticed and applied to inflammations, wounds, bleeding cuts, sprains etc. The rotten root can be crushed and boiled to make suds. Drinking these suds is said to induce the menopause in women, thereby rendering then infertile.(4)
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 #100(i)
Common Name: Moundlily, Spanish Dagger (Yucca gloriosa)
Appearance and Habitat: Evergreen shrub or in cultivation a small tree with stout, unbranched trunks, often clustered, and with bayonetlike leaves crowded and spreading at top. Introduced into Europe around 1550 and one of the most common yuccas in cultivation. Varieties have leaves with yellow or white stripes. The common name apparently refers to its occurrence on sand mounds and to the lilylike flowers. (1)South-eastern N. America – North Carolina to Florida. Naturalized in S. Europe. An evergreen shrub growing to 1.8 m (6ft) by 1.2 m (4ft in). It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to September.(2)
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit is up to 10cm long and 26mm wide. The fruit is very rarely produced in the wild. Flowers – raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, and can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. Flowering stem – cooked and used like asparagus. Root – cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and made into a bread. (3)
Medicinal Uses: (The fruit is purgative. The root is detergent.(4)
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#100(j)
Common Name: Spanish bayonet (Yucca harrimaniae)
Appearance and Habitat: High plains grasslands to open coniferous woods in Central N. America – Utah to Colorado. An evergreen shrub growing to 0.4 m (1ft 4in) at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 7. It is in leaf 12-Jan.
Edible Uses: Fruit – the immature fruit is cooked. A bitter taste, but most of the bitterness is in the skin. Flowers – raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, and can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. Flowering stem – peeled, cooked and used like asparagus. The whitish inner portion is eaten. Medicinal Uses: None 
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#100(k)
Common Name: Curve-Leaf Yucca (Yucca recurvifolia)
Appearance and Habitat: Dunes on coastal plains in South-eastern N. America – Georgia to Missouri and Louisiana. An evergreen shrub growing to 2.5 m (8ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in). It is hardy to zone 8. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Sep to October.
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. Flowers – raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, and can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring. A crisp crunchy texture, the flowers are very substantial and need to be well chewed. They have a slightly bitter flavour. Flowering stem – cooked and used like asparagus.
Medicinal Uses: None 
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 #100(l)
Common Name: Mojave Yucca (Yucca schidigera )
Native American Name: Viemp ( tall one – Moapa Paiute) Ooss, ( short one – Moapa Paiute)
Appearance and Habitat:
Evergreen shrub or small tree, usually with several clustered trunks, often with few upright branches, and with bayonetlike leaves. Native Americans ate the fleshy fruit, either fresh or roasted, and used the fibrous leaves for ropes and coarse blankets. A soap substitute can be obtained from the roots and trunks of this and other yuccas. Flowers in the Yucca genus depend upon the small, white pronuba moth (Tegeticula) for pollination. The female moth gathers pollen and works it into a tiny ball before pushing it against the stigma of another flower, where she deposits her eggs in the ovary. The larvae feed on the developing friut capsule but leave some seeds to mature. This is a common yucca in the Mojave Desert, often growing with Joshua Tree (Y. brevifolia), a tree-like species that often forms forests.(1)Found in desert habitats in chaparral and creosote bush scrub from sea level to 2500 meters in South-western N. America – California, Arizona and Nevada. An evergreen tree Tree growing to 4.5 m (14ft 9in). It is hardy to zone 8. It is in leaf 12-Jan.(2)

Edible Uses: Young flowering stems – chopped and cooked like asparagus or baked like a sweet potato. Fruit – raw or cooked. Baked then dried and ground into a powder then used in soups etc or made into a drink. The fruit can also be used to make jellies. Flowers – raw or cooked. They are delicious raw, and can also be dried, crushed and used as a flavouring and can also be used in jellies.(3)
Medicinal Uses: None (4)
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(Now for Michael Moore, who  covers western species, Yucca baccata, Y. elata, Y. glauca, Y. schidigera)

Appearance and Habitat: A common distinct plant that has elongated leaves with spines on the tips. As they grow they shed the outside leaves with new ones forming in the center. When it blooms it has a 2 to 5 foot flower stock, depending on the species. The flowers are lily-like and cream colored with brown specks or yellow green in the smaller varieties. They usually form stands that can cover a valley floor or look on dry mountain slopes. They are more common in the higher desert, even growing into the Pinyon and Juniper forests. They can even be found in the ponderosa belt.
Medicinal Uses: Collect the root any time of year and split it length-wise before placing it in a cheese cloth pocket to dry in the shade. For use as medicine remove the bark, but leave it on if you wish to use it as a shampoo for your hair. Yucca’s used to be the main source of phytosterols that were used in the manufacture of steroidal hormones, currently used as a sudsing agent for soaps. It works well for arthritic pain and joint inflammations. For medical use, boil 1/4 ounce of the dried root in a pint of water for at least 15 minutes. Let it cool, and drink in 3 or 4 doses through the day. If you get a strong laxative effect, with intestinal cramping, reduce the amount of root that you use next time. Or increase the amount of root used if it isn’t working as a laxative and the pain persists. Arthritis is hard to treat, but if this works for you it will stop the pain for several days. Long term daily use can keep the small intestine from absorbing fat – soluble vitamins. The tea from the root also helps with prostate inflammations as well. The tea has also been shown to reduce triglycerides and cholesterols in the blood.

  Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, page 169, Publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press, Copyright 1979, ISBN 0-89013-104-X

Native American Names were from Indian Uses of Native Plants by Edith Van Allen Murphey, page 74, Publisher: Meyerbooks, Copyright 1990, ISBN 0-916638-15-4

 

Reproduced, in part, (as well as previous postings under this title) in accordance with Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.
 
 
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