YuccaBotanical name: Yucca filamentosaPronunciation...


May 04, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher


Botanical name: Yucca filamentosa

Pronunciation: Yuk-ah

Family: Agavaceae (Agave)

Common name: Adam's needle

Origin: North America, West Indies

Class: Perennial/shrub

Display period: Late June, July

Height: 8-10 feetEnvironment: Full sun

Bold and dramatic, yucca is the sort of plant passersby notice. Its large white bell-shaped flowers hanging from a towering stalk resemble giant lilies of the valley. The massive rosette of bluish-green daggerlike leaves forming plant's base are decorative in the garden year-round.

But the yucca is practical, too, another point in its favor. Its drought resistance is almost legendary. The yucca's uncanny ability to endure dryness, in fact, is the reason a change was made in its classification. Formerly assigned to the lily family, it has been transferred -- along with several other genera of a similar nature and also requiring well-drained soil -- to the newly-established agave family expressly created for this class of plant.

Of the different types of yuccas, the species filamentosa (or Y. smalliana, according to its latest designation) is the most widely grown and best known. Native to parts of the South, it performs equally well in northern sectors of the United States. The characteristic white wiry curling strands (on the order of filaments) edging the leaves of Yucca filamentosa account for its species name.

Yucca makes a fine accent plant, or a grouping could be used to substitute for shrubs at the corner of a property or to hold a bank. Its stark form is especially suited to contemporary settings or gardens in the California style.

On a visit to a world-famous nursery in Cartago, Costa Rica, I saw yuccas grown as a fence. The plants make a "living impenetrable wall" that prevents theft, I was told, and keeps out animals. The blossoms, moreover, were reported to be delicious when mixed with scrambled eggs.

Y. filamentosa was among the entries chosen for "100 Great Garden Plants," by William H. Frederick Jr. (Timber Press, 9999 S.W. Wilshire, Portland, Ore. 97225; $27.95 plus $3 shipping).

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