Plant of the Week- Yuccas Gone Wild

Yuccas Gone Wild- the theme for 2013! The weather conditions and rains have been just right. I have never seen so many blooms on the yucca plants before.

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The yucca (also called “small soapweed”) has a huge root that taps into the groundwater, and long leaves with sharp ends, and in June the pale, creamy flower blooms. The yuccas can be quite tall (this year the blooms are over 4 foot tall).

The yucca are green all year, but in this picture (taken in May), the tall towers of waxy flowers are absent.

The yucca are green all year, but in this picture (taken in May), the tall towers of waxy flowers are absent.

There is a moth that only pollinates the yucca flowers. This moth then lays its eggs in the pods (that form later), and the larvae of the moth eats the seeds of the yucca. Kind of a weird setup, but both benefit from the arrangement.

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Cows love love love the pods that form (they look like a large green egg where each flower is). The cows will run to the yucca plant to eat flowers or the pods. Moving cows is difficult when pods are present, because the cows just camp out until they have eaten their fill.

Some ranchers call the towers of pods- “Cow Candy”.

If cows or other animals don’t eat the pods, the pods turn brown and the blackened seeds fall to the ground.

The flower, turned green pod, turns to a brown vessel in the fall.  You can see there are 6 places the very black seeds live.

The flower, turned green pod, turns to a brown vessel in the fall. You can see there are 6 places the very black seeds lived.

I collected seed for a professor in Illinios and it took forever to collect a handful of seeds. The larvae bored right through the middle of the seeds. Most of the seeds had already fell out, but one or two seeds would be left in the brown pods if you looked hard enough. He said the plants are doing great and all the seeds sprouted. He wondered how the yucca was not a noxious weed in the Sandhills. (I told him our rainfall and soil and his lack of grazing animals probably kept our numbers in check better.)

If you want to look like a very strong person, ask someone to pull off a yucca leaf from the outside of the plant. (They won’t be able to pull it out.) Then you reach inside, where the new growth and shorter leaves are, and these leaves will pull right out. Wear gloves though- those leaves will cut.

Categories: Plant of the Week | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Plant of the Week- Yuccas Gone Wild

  1. Martha

    GORGEOUS! What a spectacular display this year after the torture of drought last summer.

    (Is that a nearly full moon in the sky behind that giant yucca plant?)

  2. School Marm

    A friend and I dug up some yuccas years ago. I took them to my sister in Michigan, this year they finally bloomed. Wonder if it took that long for the moth to find them?

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