Yucca is the name of a plant genus, which has about 40 species in it. The Yucca is known in the American Midwest as “Ghosts in the graveyard” because it is found in rural graveyards, where its flowers bloom and appear to float around like spirits.
The Yucca plant as a genus has adapted in many different ways, much like the cacti to thrive in its temperamental habitats. Yuccas are found growing in rocky deserts, prairies, coastal sands, mountains, and even sub tropical, semi-temperate, and semi-arid zones.
The Mojave Yucca is found in the Rocky desert slopes and Creosote desert flats, and grows during August to September. The Mojave Yucca is also called the “Spanish Dagger” because its leaves resemble a bayonet (dagger).
The Soaptree Yucca is another of the Yucca species common to the Sonora and the Chihuahua deserts, in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico.
The Weeping Yucca for can tolerate not only warm weather, but also high humidity, heat and even freezing cold.
Yuccas can tolerate drought conditions with extreme ease, and even withstand full or partial sunlight without being damaged.
Yuccas are found as both shrubs and trees. In both cases, their appearance indicates their tolerance of the harsh environment around them, because yucca plants look rough and craggy. Both the trees and shrubs have a cluster of fragrant white flowers, which are important to their survival.
An important link for the plant’s survival is its symbiotic relationship with the Tegeticula genus of moths. Each type of Yucca plant has a specific genus of moth, and the plant depends on this moth for its survival.
The female forces pollen through a narrow canal leading to its stigma in the yucca flower. This is how pollination occurs, and the plant is able to survive. If the moth is unable to do this, or the plant is grown in areas where these moths do not exist (eg: Europe) this is done by hand.
Similar to the cacti, the yucca’s exterior is thick and wax like, which preserves moisture by preventing evaporation. This process is called transpiration.
Their roots play a significant part in their survival because the little water the plant receives is stored therein. Some species of yucca store water in their leaves, and these leaves are thick and rather fleshy, to accommodate all the moisture. During drought season, these leaves fall, to prevent water loss through transpiration.
Some yucca species have its dead leaves collect at its roots, thereby shielding the plant from the sun’s harmful rays. The Joshua Tree, also belonging to the yucca species is one such tree.
The Mojave Yucca’s leaves perform much the same task as the spines of a cacti, in that they direct rainfall to the plants roots, to maximize on the limited rainfall.
The Mojave Yucca grows rapidly after wildfires, and is therefore presumed to be fire adapted.