Hesperoyucca whipplei Torrey

Chaparral Yucca, Our Lord's Candle
Agavaceae (Agave Family)

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 Term Meanings.