Chaparral yucca is a small acaulescent shrub
with a dense basal rosette of dark-green bayonet-like leaf spears from
1' to 3' long that project outwards in all directions with needle-like
tips. Describing it as a small shrub might convey the wrong impression,
especially when one sees it with its impressive single, stout 8' to
10' flowering stalk and would think it was anything but small. The
creamy-white bisexual flowers arise in a compact terminal panicle to
4' long. Each flower is 1" to 1-1/2" long, pendant,
with the perianth composed of six distinct somewhat fleshy segments
usually classified as three petaloid sepals and three petals which are
not markedly dissimilar, and the tips of which often curl slightly inwards
and are sometimes purple-tinged. There are six stamens with fleshy
filaments and a single pistil about 1/2" long with a somewhat domed,
papillate stigma that develops into a three-valved seed capsule containing
many black, often flat, seeds in two rows per chamber. Chaparral
yucca, or as it is also known, Our Lord's Candle, is common on dry coastal
sage scrub and chaparral slopes from 1000' to 4000', blooming from April
to June. Munz's Flora lists several subspecies but they
are all grouped together in the Jepson Manual as Y. whipplei.
There are three other species of yuccas, the joshua tree (Y.
brevifolia), the banana yucca or Spanish bayonet of the eastern
desert mountains (Y. baccata), and the Mojave yucca of the southern
Mojave Desert and northwest Colorado Desert (Y. schidigera).
The chaparral yucca plant dies after the fruiting stalk has produced
its fruit. Those who are interested should investigate the symbiotic
relationship between the chaparral yucca and the California yucca moth
(Tegeticula maculata). Picture #4 is included to show how different
the chaparral yucca flowers appear down in San Diego County.
Click here for Latin name derivations: 1) Hesperoyucca 2) whipplei.
Pronunciation: YUK-ka WHIP-pul-eye.
Click here for Botanical