Home Is Where the Yucca Is –
There are forty to fifty species of Yuccas stretching from Guatemala to Alberta
and Baja California to easternmost Virginia. Yuccas are scattered across rocky
deserts, badlands, grasslands, prairies, mountains, woodlands and coastal
sands. They are found in semiarid as well as dry subtropical and semi-temperate
zones. The Joshua Tree, which can grow to sixty feet
tall, is a member of the yucca family.
A Gift That Keeps On Giving –
This yucca is 58 x 56 inches in diameter. The base supports six separate trunk
systems. Next to it on the right is a Peruvian apple cactus as well as the cactus
in the upper right corner. The trunks are cut back at least once a year.
The tallest any of these trunks have gotten was about twenty feet.
Many yuccas have fruit, seeds, flowers, stems and roots that are edible.
Hardy Is As Hardy Does –
The big yucca arrived in the yard in 1983 as a chunk of trunk with a little
evergreen growth much like the growth on the left of the chunk above which
was cut from the big yucca on the east wall of the backyard. Soon after
the chunk was placed on the ground roots began to grow into the ground.
If It Is There Why Not Use It? –
Yucca plants have been used by American Indians for a variety of uses
including fiber for rope, sandals and cloth; the roots have been used
in soap. The Indians and early Californian settlers used the green pods
for food. Indian uses included boiling and baking the fruits, eating
the blossoms, chewing the raw leaves and fermenting the fruits to
produce a beverage for rituals. Indians also use yuccas as a ritualistic
shampoo. The dry yucca leaves and trunk fibers were used as friction fire
starters due to their low ignition temperature.
This is Not a Cautionary Tale for Yuccas –
These yucca shoots are growing quickly after a series of late December rain that
brought four inches over three storms in a week. 2014 was another dry year
and the hottest on record for the planet, surpassing 1998 and 2010, due to
rising ocean temperatures. Downtown San Diego has been recording temperature
records since 1872. The average temperature 2014 San Diego temperature
was 67.6 degrees which is .4 degrees warmer than 1984, the hottest year on
record in San Diego. 2014 had 342 days that were warmer than “normal”,
four “normal” and 19 days that were cooler than “normal”. There were 14 days
that were 90 degrees, or warmer, to compared with the average of 1.3 days.
2014 rainfall from January 1 to November 30 was 3.27 inches, 5.54 inches
below the “normal” of 8.81 inches. And then “pineapple express” storms
arrived in San Diego Dec. 2-4, Dec. 12 and Dec. 16-17. At the end of the
month a cold Gulf of Alaska arrived that brought snow to the east county
foothills. The rainfall total for December 2014 was 4.5 inches.
Be it wet or dry the yuccas carry on.
A Flower is A Flower and Then There are Yuccas –
Yucca plants are characterized by stiff, evergreen, elongated dagger-shaped
leaves fanning outward on a stout crowded trunk. The leaves come to razor
sharp points that discourages attempts to handle them. The large, elaborate
and ornate cluster flower-head shoot up above the leaves on thin stalks.
The flowers are a waxy yellow-white. Some yuccas have greenish flowers.
In a marvel of specialization, each variety of yucca plant is dependent on
pollination by a white nocturnal yucca moth adapted to that, and only that,
single species of yucca.
It Takes Two to Dance the Yucca Tango –
The yucca moths transfers the pollen from the stamens of one plant to the stigma of another, and at the same time lays an egg in the flower; the moth larva then feeds on some of the developing seeds, always leaving enough seed to perpetuate the species. Certain species of the Yucca moth have evolved antagonistic features against the plant and do not assist in the plants pollination efforts while continuing to lay their eggs in the plant for protection. Yucca species are the host plants for the caterpillars of the yucca giant-skipper, ursine giant-skipper and Strecker’s giant-skipper.
Like Most of Nature, Yuccas are Medicine Cabinets –
Yuccas are used as ornamental plants in gardens. This yucca is blooming on a
sidewalk in an industrial section of Kearny Mesa in San Diego. Anders’ shadow
can be seen in the right hand image. Yuccas are used to help humans in many
ways besides landscaping.They have been known to be used for treating colitis,
hypertension, arthritis, and migraine headaches. Yucca also has been used
in soaps, shampoos, and food supplements. Yuccas contain saponins that have
a long-lasting soaping action. A solid extract is derived from the leaves;
the Mohave yucca is the most common commercially used plant.
Current commercial uses of yucca extracts include foaming agents in
carbonated beverages, flavorings, and for use in drug synthesis.
• A note on yuccas as landscaping ornamentals: it is recommended not
to water yuccas in the heat of the summer.
Boiling, Baking, Eating, Chewing, Fermenting –
For centuries, yucca plants have served American Indians for a variety of
uses including fiber for rope, sandals and cloth; the roots have been
used in soap. The Indians and early Californian settlers used the green
pods for food. Indian uses included boiling and baking the fruits, eating
the blossoms, chewing the raw leaves and fermenting the fruits to produce
a beverage for rituals.
• Yuccas are known as the Ghosts of the Graveyards in the lower Midwest
United States because it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards and
when in bloom the cluster of (usually pale) flowers on a thin stalk appear
as floating apparitions.
And Now For Something Different –
This is a combination of four photographs, taken at three shot scales, over a
period of sixty seconds. The dove’s modest, but constant movement, may have
had an unperceptible effect on the North Korean Internet.
©2015 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.