The Amazing Yucca Stalk… Part 5 – He has a name!

Based on this photographically beautiful personal travel site that includes information about nature in the Guadalupe Mountains, my plant is a Sotol plant.

There are a number of uses I hadn’t discovered before: Mezcal style liquor can be distilled from the leaves; and the plant is also called “Desert Spoon,” referring to the fact that the leaves were used by Native Americans as spoons, or “quids,” which can be found discarded across the Southwest. Finally, and this makes me quite happy, the plant will not die after the flower-stalk expires. Now that he is mature, he will kick out a new flower stalk every few years. Hurray!

More to come in the days ahead, as I begin to research this new gem of information.

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The Amazing Yucca Stalk… Part 4 – “It’s a boy!”

 

Welcome to the story of the “Amazing Yucca Stalk.” Parts one, two, and three tell the story of how this stalk grew.

With a visual of the “finished stalk,” I was able to quickly track down a little more information. And actually, this part should have been a no-brainer: as a fertile producer of pollen, my plant is clearly a boy! I pray that the bees have a female somewhere in their territory where they can transport the pollen and fertilize her flowers.

The Amazing Yucca Stalk… Part 3 – the bees

Welcome to the story of the “Amazing Yucca Stalk.” Parts one and two tell the story of how this stalk grew.

The stalk has reached its full height, and busted out in little pollen-rich buds. Are these the flowers? I’m disappointed in myself for secretly wanting them to be the big white “lanterns of the gods” instead. It is also clear I need to research my yucca plant further, as moths are NOT the pollinators of this particular type of plant.

For a week now, the stalk has been a mecca for hundreds of bees. They are constantly busy on the stalk, collecting pollen. In fact, it’s possible some of them stay all night. They are there when I go to bed at night, and they are there at 5:00 a.m.

The energy of nature is awesome to behold. Even here in the desert when temperatures are reaching 110 degrees, this factory of fertile production continues without abatement.

The bees are busy, and appear calm. I’m not sure how I’m assessing bee “calmness” – it’s just that they are not buzzing, and while they are continually moving from one bud to another, they aren’t in a flurry about it. My human interpretation is that there is SO MUCH to be gathered here, that there is no need to rush.

Another interesting note: As I was driving home from work in central Phoenix yesterday, I spotted a stalk just like this one beside the highway. These aren’t everywhere, since they only appear every decade or so for each yucca plant, and this is the first one I’ve seen since ours burst forth. I wasn’t able to tell whether the highway yucca stalk had a factory of bees busy at work, but I suspect so. Again, to humanize the bees, this must be a rare occurrence for the bees, and an incredible gift from mother nature.

 

The amazing yucca stalk… Part 2 – the flowers

Welcome to the story of the “Amazing Yucca Stalk.” Part one tells the story of how this stalk grew.

Genetics can be surprising, including plant genetics. I have learned, in strolling through various resources, that the yucca plant may be in the same family with the lily. I think of one as soft and moist, the other as prickly and dry – but what they have in common is their glorious blossom. Here are a few additional facts about yucca blossoms:

  • Because of their magnificent, glowing flowers, yuccas are sometimes called “Lamparas de Dios,” or “Lanterns of God.”
  • Since 1927, the yucca has been the New Mexico state flower.
  • Yucca flowers in the New World are pollinated by “Yucca Moths.” These moths stuff little balls of pollen from the male yucca plant into the flower cup of the female plant.
  • The relationship between yucca and yucca moth is symbiotic, and yuccas that have been transplanted to places without the native moth will only seed if this process is carried out manually.
  • (The yucca moth that performs this fertilization process for the Mohave yucca is female. Here she is…)Image

The amazing yucca stalk…. Part 1

So last weekend, I was glancing across the front yard, eyes slightly unfocused, when I noticed something… different. Our yucca plant, which had been steadily and calmly providing a serrate-toothed fan of texture to the landscape for nearly 12 years, had sprung a stalk! The baby stalk was thrusting barely two inches above the top of the yucca’s leaves at that moment, but I knew it would grow fast.

Merely a week later, you can see where the stalk stands now, about five feet above the tips of the yucca’s leaves. This is the dramatic life-thrust of our lovely yucca plant, rich with offerings of sustenance and fertility. Sadly, when the process of flowering and fruiting is complete, the yucca plant will die.

So I am committing myself to making the most of this event. I will take photos along the way and share them here. Below you can see today’s close-up of the little seed pods peeking out from the stalk leaves. I ask myself: how do these desert plants find the resources – and the moisture! – to generate such a massively-complex life-giving stalk in such a short timeframe?

I have started researching the various uses of yucca stalks – though of course we won’t use the stalk until the plant has completely run its natural course.

You might enjoy these resources – including a video-journal of the making of a Native American style yucca flute. Outstanding!

Stay tuned – and please share any natural wonders you’ve experienced in your own front yard!

 

Alligator Love: A Courtship

Alligator blossom

I love this recent blog by Serenity Spell about mating alligators – and she has a follow-on blog with photos of their babies. What is it about ancient creatures that fascinates and repels? As I get older, and my fears become more manageable, I think of the “reptile brain” we share, and I respect and honor the wisdom passed on to us from ancient times – it has probably saved each of our lives more than once. Anyway – check out Alligator Love: A Courtship.

Red Winged Blackbird – my mom’s favorite bird

redwing blackbirdThe Red Winged Blackbird was my mom’s favorite bird – sometimes I think her spirit speaks to me when I hear their call! I love the photos in this post – such intimate portraits of the birds!

Serenity Spell

Red-winged Blackbirds are found in most of North and much of Central America, and are familiar sights in our wetlands. There have been claims that it is the most abundant, and most well studied bird in North America. The males, glossy black with scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches, puff up or hide depending on their level of confidence. In our marshes, they’re quite brave (or protective, in defense-mode), doing as much as they can to get noticed, and belting out their conk-la-ree songs.

The female is a subdued brown, with streaks of lighter colorations — and much shyer than her male counterpart. Her brownish coloring serves to camouflage her and the nest, while she’s incubating. Females stay low in the vegetation, searching for food (eating primarily seeds and insects), and weaving their amazing nests. Constructed entirely over the course of three to six days — with no help from the males —…

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