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Seventh Day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

…seven spiky yuccas!

seventhday
...six types of milkweed!
…fiiiive! naaaative! plaaaaants!
…four hummingbirds!
…three moorhens!
…two mourning doves!
…and a replacement for a Bradford pear tree!

Because it’s the internet, someone somewhere is already typing a comment informing me that the thing in the back is an agave.

Well, yes. I ran out of yuccas. So we’re going with “yuccas and plants sufficiently yucca-like as to make no difference to the layman.” Also, they’re all members of the Agavaceae family.

Yuccas are extraordinarily versatile plants. You’d think they grow only in deserts, but in fact, an extraordinary number grow here in the Southeast, which is about as far from a desert as you can get.

Some unknown yucca, for example, is growing right now on the edge of my pond…in moss. There is moss around the pond. There are yuccas sticking out of the moss. It is very weird and looks wrong, but the yucca seems happy so I am not interfering. (I got them as part of a six pack in the cactus & succulent section of Big Bloomers. It’s definitely some member of Clan Yucca, but I am unclear on the exact variety, since I lost the tag. I think it’s the straight species of Y. filamentosa, but I could be wrong.)

Most of my yuccas are in fact variants on Yucca filamentosa, also known as Adam’s Needle. It is pointy, and also found all up and down the eastern seaboard.  You have to give them pretty good drainage, but they’re not finicky. I also have “Golden Sword” a cultivar of Y. flaccida, which is very pretty, if unfortunately named.

Agaves are a little more touch and go here. I have Agave americana, which is quietly rotting, and A. parryi, which is not entirely sure about all this. I’ve seen enormous ones here, but they need absurdly good drainage and possibly some shelter from pounding rain.

Much happier in this neck of the woods is Manfreda virginica, or “Virginia false-aloe” which has the lovely yucca shape while also being from Virginia and the Carolinas, as well as farther south and west. There’s a marvelous cultivar called “Spot,” which is doing very well in my garden and producing numerous pups.

I am also quite fond of Eryngium yuccifolium, which has the marvelous name “Rattlesnake Master.” It’s not a true yucca but just kinda looks like them. The flower heads are masterpieces.

Finally—rounding out number seven—somewhere on the property is Y. aloifolia, “Spanish bayonet.” It’s native to here. I was happy to find it at the nursery. I planted it and then promptly lost it. It is somewhere on the property. (Is that it, by the frog pond? Or over by the rosemary?) The problem is that all these damn yuccas are pointy and angry and spiky and you tuck the tag under the plant so it’s not an eyesore and if you try to find the tag again, it involves groping around underneath the yucca, who is screaming “I WILL CUT YOU!” and going for your eyes.

Marvelous plants. But very spiky.


Originally published at Squash's Garden. You can comment here or there.

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Love your sense of humour - may I add you? I always ask, rather than presume :-)

Edited at 2012-12-20 04:08 pm (UTC)

Absolutely! The more the merrier!

mmmmm tequila. made from the plant that would gladly cut a bitch if you piss it off.

Oh those little scratches on the poor hamster! I think this one may be my favorite so far.

The knife is an ingenious touch! (Although unnecessary to a yucca?)

Perhaps "arming the yucca" is the new "gilding the lily"?

This is going into my lexicon. :D

Cactus spines aren't very good at cutting or chopping.

There is even a yucca that is hardy enough to grow in zone five. You think a yucca by the bog looks funny? Try one peeking out of a foot of snow, with icicles hanging from its tips!

We had a couple of MONSTER yucca plants in our yard in northeastern NC when I was little - probably a filamentosa, although I can't be sure. Were much bigger than us kids, that's for sure.

Edited at 2012-12-20 08:11 pm (UTC)

Lost? LOST!?! *hits speed dial #2*.
...
“Hello? Pittsboro Weaponized Agricultural Response Center?”
.....
“Good. Code UDIA”
....
“Yucca”
...
“I think so, she says she tore that out last month.”
...
“Heck if I know, they're not *supposed* to crossbreed. But..."
....
“Full response? From orbit? Dammit I'm in the kill radius!”
*click*

You only thought those Evacuation Route signs were for Sharon Harris...

poor hamster! so cute! so scratched up!

One of the weirdest things I've ever seen was a garden at a ancient, beautiful palace in Japan that had monumentally humongous agave, cacti and yucca growing in it. I mean, seriously? With the giant bamboo and the graceful pleached cherry-trees and flowering plum? THEY LOOKED TOTALLY BATSHIT. Somewhere I have photos. I never did find out why the hell they were there, but the place was famous for its gorgeous topiary so I'm assuming that somebody gave 'em to the owners. Really, though: Totally batshit.

Is there any chance of buying prints (or t-shirts) of these? I find I have a soul deep need for them .

Hello. I am enthralled by these days of Christmas with detailed explanations about so many plants. It's so interesting and informative! I would love to see pictures of your garden if you have any! I'm going miss this once Christmas is over.

awfulhorrid and I have Rattlesnake Master, too! We were looking through the (extremely limited) selection of native plants while picking out stuff for our garden last spring, and the name caught our attention. It showed its appreciation for our watering through southern Wisconsin's drought by producing adorable puff-balls well into the fall. We're hoping that it and the other natives will spread next year.

I'm loving your "Days of Christmas" series, both the art and the writing! Would you consider gathering them into a booklet or print set or something?

I moved into a house where a Very Large yucca had taken over the mailbox and its surroundings, with something like a six-foot diameter. I can only assume the previous owner of the house had never gotten mail. I tried to get it with a hoe for a while, but ended up hiring someone to get rid of it. (It was that or burn it down. Spiky indeed.)

Have you ever concidered a garden map so as to prevent the need to find the tag?

You’d think they grow only in deserts, but in fact, an extraordinary number grow here in the Southeast, which is about as far from a desert as you can get.

I also thought that about cacti, too, but then I was hiking on Stone Mountain near Atlanta one rainy January day, and came across a very sad-looking, small, soggy, sort of deflated little clump of what were clearly cacti in a crack in the rock.

Turns out they were even native.

(Not more than one native species in the Southeast, but still; I think one cacti species is sufficient to be an extraordinary number!)

I've got three prickly pears on the hillside, and I feel very weird about them, but apparently this is where they're from. If they can take the deadly dry hill, I will learn to love them!

My favorite thing about yuccas is that at least some of them have edible flowers. They taste kind of like raw peanuts. (Learned this while on a sea-turtle-tagging project on Wassaw Island, Georgia).

I sympathize with your poor hamster.

When we bought this place, some yucca had been planted next to the wall, and I was happy to leave it since it was native. Then it grew. And grew. And laughed at all attempts at pruning it out of the walkway next to the house. And decided that sheltering wild grape vines and some self-seeding trees was Just The Thing, and that it would viciously attack anyone who tried to remove said invaders. Gloves aren't helpful, since the yucca's diameter and my arm length are roughly even. And did I mention that it's not very far from the water & electricity meters, and that the vines it's sheltering think the meters are just the most enticing thing ever?

So, regretfully, the yucca must go. I wish I could figure out a way to transplant/give them to someone else, rather than just getting rid of them. I don't suppose you'd want them? ;D





Bring the Agave in and let it rot in a still with some sugars, then serve the resultant tequila in its memory.

Absolutely loving this series; thanks for the drawings, and the commentary. :)

I live on the edge of the Great Basin Desert.

I have only seen yuccas grow in people's yards. This, I suspect, is because the sagebrush is too busy trying to take over the world to let a humble yucca plant grow anywhere. Sagebrush are meanies.

Your drawings are awesome!

I really like your drawings! I must confess though, I thought the Yuccas were 420. Ha ha ~ Seth

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