The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Winter Solstice 1998 || Volume I, Number 3


FEATURE FLOWER



Photo by Boon Hughey ©1998,
SPANISH BAYONET
(aka Our Lord's Candle, Yucca)
Yucca whipplei


This striking plant, common in the chapparal belt of the Southern California mountains and extending eastward to Arizona, is an evergreen hemisphere of bristling, bayonet-like leaves set close to the ground, each leaf 1 to 3 feet long and terminating in a slender spine. Out of this repellent mass arises in early summer a stout flower-stalk to the height of 10 to 15 feet, breaking for half its upper length into a huge panicle of creamy-white (sometimes purplish tinted), fragrant, pendant flowers. Such gleaming spikes, visible from long distances projected against the dark background of shaggy hillsides, are a characteristic sight in June and July throughout Southern California, and one of the dramatic scenes in Western plant life.

After the flowers pass the plant dies, but an examination at the base usually shows thrifty young offsets from the old root. The dead flower stalks, pithy and light of weight, are turned to some account by curio manufacturers, the cross sections, for instance, making serviceable pincushions. The young flower stalk was roasted and eaten by the Indians.

Spanish Californians call the plant quióte (kee-ó-ta) which seems to be a case of popular transference, as quiotl is one of the Aztec names for the Agave, or Maguey.

From The Western Flower Guide by
Charles Francis Saunders, 1917


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