Chaparral yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei) is a conspicuous native plant of dry rocky slopes in coastal sage scrub and chaparral. It produces a flamboyant cluster of purple-tinged white flowers atop a long stalk, giving rise to imaginative names such as Our Lord’s candle, quixote plant and Spanish bayonet, a name it shares with the other yucca in the area, Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera). After several years of growth, chaparral yucca blooms once, then dies.
Chaparral yucca is a perennial that grows 8-10 feet from a dense basal rosette of stiff, strap-shaped, gray-green leaves. The tough, leathery leaves are one to three feet long, fibrous, and tipped with a sharp spine. The margin has tiny but sharp serrations.
Fragrant white or purple-tinged flowers appear between five and eight years of age, in a large, conspicuous cluster at the top of one long, unbranched stalk, several feet long. The flower stalk grows very quickly, four to six inches (10-15 cm) per day.174 Larger flower clusters contain hundreds of blossoms and may reach four feet (1.5 m) in length. Bisexual flowers are bell-shaped, about 1.5 inches (3.5 cm) across, extended horizontally or pendant from their pedicels. There are three sepals and three petals that are indistinguishable from each other (collectively called tepals). Tepals are mostly cream colored, more or less edged with purple. There are six stamens with very thick, white filaments. Orange pollen is produced in discrete packets, pollinia, two per anther. The single pistil has a superior ovary with a thick style and a green, three-lobed stigma, which is fringed around the edge. Chaparral yucca usually blooms between early March and May.1
After fertilization, the pedicel reverses and the maturing fruit is erect, a plump green capsule with six shallow longitudinal grooves. The capsule splits open from the tip to expose six columns of seeds, with numerous flattened seeds per column.
Each chaparral yucca flowers only once after which the entire plant dies. Before flowering, a plant may produce smaller plants (“pups”) around the base. Thus the dead stalk of the original plant may leave behind one or more smaller plants, genetically identical to the original.
IMPORTANCE OF NATIVE PLANTS
California’s varied climate can support a wide variety of plants from around the world. However, our state’s unique and beautiful native plants are often overlooked in garden design. Instead, water-intensive exotic plants that do not support the local ecology often taken the place of California native plants in people’s gardens.
You can enjoy many benefits while bringing in the beauty of California into your own garden by using water-wise native plants. Some of these benefits include:
Water Savings: A sustainably designed, drought-tolerant native garden can use 85 percent less water per year than a traditional landscape with turf and high-water use plants. Also, once native plants are planted, a well-designed drip irrigation system is more efficient than traditional sprayhead irrigation and saves watering costs. Once established, many California native plants need little additional watering beyond normal rainfall.
Maintenance Reduction: A water-wise California native garden can reduce maintenance dramatically once it is established. Eliminating the need for mowing and fertilizing lawns, applying pesticides and fertilizers, and frequently watering thirsty plants leaves you more time to enjoy your garden and other activities.
Wildlife and Biodiversity Increases: Adding native plants helps create functioning ecosystems in the garden by attracting the native insects and wildlife that depend upon these plants. Native plants and animals have developed relationships with each other, and research has shown that native wildlife prefers native plants over non-native plants. Native pollinators can improve fruit and vegetable production in your home garden, and beneficial native insects, reptiles, birds, and small mammals can manage pests such as mosquitos, ticks, and aphids.
Landfill Waste Reduction: The reduction in landscape maintenance, such as mowing a lawn, means that less green waste will be produced per year. Because many cities and homes are not set up for composting, most green waste is not composted. Gardening with native plants means less waste going into landfills.
Pesticide Use Reduction: Native plants have not only developed their own defenses against many pests and diseases, they can also attract beneficial insects and animals that attack pests. Reducing or eliminating pesticides keeps toxins out of our waterways and soil, improves environmental and human health, and allows natural and beneficial pest controllers to thrive.
Connection to a California Sense of Place is Enhanced: A garden planted with species unique to California creates a strong sense of place and helps connect you more deeply to the natural world. Including native plants in your garden connects you to the unique biological web created by the environmental history and culture of the land your home sits on. These small patches of habitat become part of a larger collective that nurtures and sustains a living landscape that not only enhances a sense of sanctuary for you, but for the plants, insects, birds, and other animals that have always lived there.
By gardening with native plants, you can enjoy many benefits – including water savings – while giving your home garden an appealing look that reflects California’s unique natural landscapes.
ABOUT GROWING WORKS NURSERY
Growing Works is an innovative, California native and drought tolerant plant nursery established to provide job training, employment, and horticultural therapy to people with mental health challenges.
The nursery helps fulfill an ever-present local need for high quality, drought-tolerant California native and Mediterranean plants and succulents. Growing Works is based on a thriving and sustainable business model where plant sales, job training services, and donations from supporters contribute to its success.
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