Bloom of the Month – April

The new calendar is hot off the metaphorical presses and the usual suspects are looking to keep things lively through the month.  Lanny will be in Rose Valley, traipsing through the Sespe and hunting for butterflies with Michelle up Horn Canyon…Audubon is offering bird walks for folks of all experience levels.. And Wild on Ojai features a fascinating look at the Ventura River Watershed this weekend.

Also, if you are still looking for native plants OVLC will have a booth set up at the St. Thomas Aquinas spring festival so come by and have a look.

On to the aforementioned bloom.  I admit I am somewhat biased on this one, as it is currently blooming right on my front lawn (lawn of bark of course).

Hesperoyucca whipplei

Hesperoyucca whipplei

Our Lord’s Candle, chaparral yucca, Quixote yucca or Spanish Bayonet; with such awesome monikers I’m amazed it took this long to earn the coveted bloom of the month title.

yucca_whipplei2

Believe it or not yucca is a bulb, in the lily (Liliaceae) family.  The extremely sharp leaves can be over 3 feet long and six inches wide.  This rhizomatous plant grows slowly year after year, eventually shooting out clones adjacent to the mother plant.

Mom & babies

Mom & babies

I had always been told it takes 7-15 years for the flower stalk to arise.  Mine took 5.  The stalk climbs over 8 feet tall before sending out hundreds of creamy white flowers.

yuccastalk

This is the swan song for this particular plant.  It flowers, and dies, isn’t that romantic.  But don’t be sad, besides sending out literally thousands of seeds in the last hurrah, usually a few clones have already grown alongside.

yucca_whipplei_flower2

The flowers are pollinated by the fascinating Tegeticula maculata, the Califonia Yucca moth.  At night females gather huge balls of pollen, and as they lay a single egg inside the ovary they simultaneously pollinate the flower.

Yucca moth

Yucca moth

As the youngsters grow they feed on the seeds.  Seeds are also edible for us humans, whether raw or baked.  They can also be ground into meal for flour.

Tegeticula maculata - Yucca moth

Tegeticula maculata – Yucca moth

It’s not just the seeds, believe it or not almost all parts of the yucca are edible.  The flowers have a delicate refreshing flavor (I’ve tried one!), though some tribes used to boil them to get rid of any bitterness.  Leaves, stalks and especially the main crown were roasted in an underground firepit overnight and made a scrumptious feast.

yucca1

The leaves were also used to make cordage for sandals, nets and bags.  The sharp points were used to pierce ears and other body parts as well as for tattoos.

cahuilla_sandals_small

If you see someone out on the trails ripping down one of these stalks for a souveneir please kick their ass for me.

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This entry was posted in Bloom of the Month, Getting Involved, Native Plants and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bloom of the Month – April

  1. ocdreader says:

    I know it took 5 years for the flower but we probably planted a yucca that was at least 2-3 years old – no? Those guys take a little while to grow in the beginning.

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