Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the June 23, 2008 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:

Usually we think of yuccas as denizens of arid lands and in large measure that's true. Because the best- known yucca is the Joshua-tree we often visualize them as having trunks. However, nowadays around here the yuccas are flowering, they have no trunks, and they may be native. You can see a wild yucca at Pipes Lake below:


That's YUCCA FILAMENTOSA, sometimes called Curlyleaf Yucca because of one of the species' most curious features: Its blade margins bear long, tough, pale, stringlike filaments, as shown below:

blade filaments of Curlyleaf Yucca, YUCCA FILAMENTOSA

Sometimes the species is also called the Spoonleaf Yucca because, as the photo shows, blade tips often curve concavely, spoon-like.

flowers of Curlyleaf Yucca, YUCCA FILAMENTOSA

Above there's a close-up of a flower on which I've bent aside one of the petals to reveal the green ovary with its thick, white stigma hanging down, all surrounded by six white stamens with flattish, fuzzy filaments. My books claim that the species' flower stems are hairless (glabrous in botanist talk) but you can see that ours have hairy stems. Some botanists might make a different species based on such a difference.

Whatever it's taxonomic status, you can see that the blossoms are home to interesting bugs, and you should have seen how many resided there before I bent the petal aside! The flowers' sweet fragrance must attract a rainbow of pollinators. And how pleasant it is lying in a moonlight-glowing tent deep in a still, moist night, with yucca-flower perfume drifting through the netting.

Yucca filamentosa is native from southern New Jersey south to Georgia, then west to Mississippi. It's planted far beyond its native home, however. I first met it planted among tombstones in the hilltop cemetery back in Kentucky where my father is buried. Around here folks like to plant them beside their mail boxes.

Yuccas are now placed in the Agave Family, the Agavaceae. My old Gray's Manual put them in the Lily Family.