Stuck on a Yucca

When last in New Mexico I crossed the state line at El Paso, Texas, and meandered in a northwest direction through Las Cruces, Carlsbad Caverns, and White Sands National Monument. I remember seeing the sword shaped leaves of short Yucca – New Mexico’s State Flower – scattered along the roadside and up into the hills. Few were blooming but I did stop at one noble giant who raised his fronds high with a lance shaped bloom panicle atop. This one was different from the others and I later learned there are a dozen varieties of Yucca in the state and the state legislature just said “Yucca” was the state flower – no particular variety.

My first face-to sword encounter with Mr. Yucca.

When we think of Yucca, we envision a good-sized but short collection of sharp-tipped leaves with a bloom spike on top. In fact, my first encounter with a Yucca was years earlier as I inadvertently bumped into a Spanish Bayonet Yucca at a Florida resort. I think I still wear those scars on my right arm.

The most common idea of what a Yucca looks like.
Yucca Bloom

The Yucca bloom itself is individually simple with six petals and a creamy white color although I have seen red and yellow varieties in nurseries – never in the wild. There are several native pollinators and chief among them is the Yucca Moth. This night visitor spreads pollen from one Yucca to another and then lays an egg at each visit. The larvae proceeds to feed upon the developing Yucca seeds but always leaves a few for future Yucca generations.

The Yucca Moth is easily missed as it is small and white.

The seeds ripen in large pods and when dry they open to scatter their seeds in the surrounding terrain by wind or by ants which feed on the outer seed layers.

Yuccas in their natural environment. Never walk by moonlight in the desert!

If you are in the right place at the right time and sometimes that right time is once every few years, other desert wildflowers emerge near the Yucca and they are just as menacing.

The Salt Heliotrope with its purple throated flowers can kill a foraging horse within hours.
The Barrel Cactus dares you to take an up-close sniff of its fragrant flowers.

One cannot visit New Mexico without a stop at Carlsbad Caverns. “Flowers” of a different sort bloom on cave floor and ceiling.

Huge Gypsum Flowers bloom for millenniums in the dark depths of Carlsbad.
“Come visit me and see my flower garden. Stay a while”
Yucca on the high desert – one of my favorite places.

Now we are off to a more rosy environment – the State of New York. Can you guess what their state flower may be? It is very cultured and wouldn’t survive a day in New Mexico. Any guesses?

1 thought on “Stuck on a Yucca

  1. Yuccas are so neat!! I have one right outside my front door, I love it!


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