Friday, May 31, 2013

Plant of the Day: Yucca

Last fall I took this picture of a yucca (Yucca filamentosa) planted in a parking lot median at a shopping center nearby. I've never been a fan of yucca—the ones from my past were all plain and ugly and relegated to a neglected corner of the yard of someone who had NO desire to do any yard work. I thought they were mean and spiteful plants that might have deserved what little attention they got. Those spiny tips and razor-sharp edges will teach you to avoid them.

But!...these colorful ones are planted in dozens, all across the Carmel Commons parking lot, and together they make an eye-catching and interesting display. The dramatic variegation and fireworks shape are appealing and I like the curly whiskers, too. I bet this one is cultivar 'Color Guard'.

Yucca filamentosa blooming en masse outside my favorite Thai restaurant
I was aware that yuccas flower but these took me by surprise. One day: spiky ball. Next day: spiky ball with big asparagus. Finally: dozens of creamy white flowers dangling from four foot tall asparagus/flower spikes. To see so many plants blooming all at once is impressive.

Yucca flowers are eaten in Mexico and some other parts of the world; I've heard they taste like peas. I took a nibble of one and thought it had almost no taste at all. Maybe they're like tofu and they taste like whatever you put them in. Or maybe cooking brings out the flavor. Have you eaten them? What did you think?

The blooms are a lot friendlier than the leaves—no sharp edges! The foliage colors repeat in the red stems, pretty green buds and creamy blooms. Bell-like petals have a graceful drape.

I am rethinking this plant. Maybe I could go beyond forgiving the yuccas that stabbed me in my days of tag and hide-and-seek, and even plant some in my garden. I have the perfect spot for one (or three) of these.