Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Yucca flowering on a steep slope

with 48 comments

Yucca Flowering on Cliff 2651

To allow FM 1431 to cross the Colorado River just south of Kingsland in the Texas Hill Country, engineers had to cut the roadbed through the flank of a steep hill. The result was an even steeper cliff, and it was at the interface between that cliff and the untouched hillside above it that these yuccas were flowering on April 7th. Three species are possible: I’m leaning toward Yucca torreyi, but Yucca pallida and Yucca constricta also occur in the area.

If you look carefully you can see the bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis, that were mixed in, and it’s hard to miss the pads of prickly pear cactus that are such a common sight in Texas.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 27, 2015 at 5:30 AM

48 Responses

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  1. Some folks have planted yucca up here in IA. I have no idea what variety. They seem to tolerate the cold winters. There is a house on a nearby street that also has a 15 ft strip of prickly pear cactus along the sidewalk.

    Jim in IA

    April 27, 2015 at 6:57 AM

    • The northernmost part of Texas once extended into what is now Wyoming, so maybe Texas is reasserting its northern claim through the yucca and prickly pear you’ve seen near you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2015 at 7:48 AM

  2. This is such a striking photo. I love the texture of the rock against the foliage, and the vertical against the strong diagonal. Yuccas look lovely there. People try to grow them here and they never look like much. Thank you for this glimpse of how they should look 🙂


    April 27, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    • You’re welcome, and thanks for your analysis of the picture in terms of composition and texture. It’s not often I get to include richly textured rocks in my botanical pictures in central Texas, so naturally when I saw the yuccas flowering above these rocks on the cliff I had to stop to see what I could do with my camera.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2015 at 9:06 AM

  3. when i see images of yucca in bloom, i think of the custom of cooking the flowers during holy week in costa rica. they have a bitter taste, though when scrambled with eggs in the traditional manner, they’re a novelty.

    i don’t see yucca used here as much as in central america, though i should grow a clump or two and experiment with its culinary options!

    • I don’t think I’ve ever eaten yucca flowers, but since you mentioned that you have I did a little looking and found that there’s a long tradition:


      Elsewhere I learned that the yucca flower is the official state flower of New Mexico.

      The yuca [Spanish spelling] root that I ate in Honduras, as you probably did in Costa Rica, isn’t actually yucca but cassava. Apparently the roots of the true yuccas aren’t generally edible and can even do harm.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2015 at 9:17 AM

      • yes, that was always strange to see two totally different yuccas.

        on holy week they pick the flowers (they can be purchased in markets as well) and simmered in a pot of water… then they are drained, the petals separated and added to sauteed onions and peppers… at the final part, the scrambled eggs are folded/stirred until set.

        • I don’t remember yucca flowers from Honduras, but I wasn’t paying much attention to such things back then and might have seen yucca flowers without realizing it. I’m still pretty sure I never ate any. Maybe I can manage to sautee some here in Austin.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 27, 2015 at 3:13 PM

          • they’re ‘silky’ in texture, and perhaps they’re not all bitter. the yucca/cassava here in ecuador is the best i’ve ever had.. it’s not tough and stringy at all…

            • I wish I could get some of that kind of cassava in Austin. Or maybe that’s a reason to visit Ecuador.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 27, 2015 at 5:18 PM

              • Ecuador’s cuisine is amazing. Tonight a friend gave me a verbal tutorial on how to make ‘corviche.’ There’s ‘viche’ and ‘ceviche’ and encebollado and torte de pescado y encocado y — so much more, and that’s just the coast of Manabi. The sierra has its own cuisine, and there are many unusual fruits and vegetables. for sure, you should experience the many facets of Ecuador!

  4. the flower is huge !!! this is so impressive !! How long does the blooming period last ?


    April 27, 2015 at 11:23 AM

  5. The diversity in our world is so amazing, love the photo it really captures this well.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    April 27, 2015 at 12:02 PM

    • Yes, this landscape photograph shows greater natural diversity than many of my other photographs, in which I usually concentrate on a species. It’s good to offer an overview for a change.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2015 at 3:15 PM

  6. This photo and the scene are so striking – just beautiful! I appreciated the blogger above who posted about why and how the composition is so wonderful. Considering the circumstances that could be devastating to the environment, you have really captured the beauty of what is there!

    Birder's Journey

    April 27, 2015 at 2:19 PM

    • This road was cut through the hillside decades ago, so any disturbed vegetation has long since reestablished itself. A fringe benefit of having a road that allows cars to get across the Colorado River in that region is that I was able to pull over where I did to take this photograph and a bunch of others. In fact the highway people put a parking area there so drivers could stop and admire the scenery.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2015 at 3:22 PM

  7. There is a variety of Yucca, whose name eludes me right now, that can be grown as an ornamental here.

    Steve Gingold

    April 27, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    • From things I’ve read, it appears gardeners in various parts of the country are planting yuccas as ornamentals. When I was doing the native plant part of Saturday’s trail walk in Great Hills Park there was a guy who was impressed by a yucca that wasn’t even flowering, but he thought the plant was something wonderful from the tropics. I explained that it’s native in Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2015 at 3:26 PM

  8. Great photo. I love seeing yuccas in their natural environment – we generally only have them in pots here.

    Raewyn's Photos

    April 27, 2015 at 3:30 PM

    • I don’t recall seeing any yuccas during my month in New Zealand, but I’m not surprised to hear that people there have cultivated them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2015 at 3:46 PM

  9. This is the first time I’ve seen yuccas flowering. You may remember I wrote a whole post about my love of grass trees. I actually have a fondness for similar unusual plants such as yuccas. They remind me of modern sculptures and I appreciate their symmetry. I like the diversity of plants in this picture. The different textures and shapes along with the rocks make it an attractive and interesting picture, Steve.


    April 29, 2015 at 4:46 AM

    • If I lived in Australia (or visited long enough) I’d be out photographing grass trees too. I see that they’re in the same botanical order as yucca, the Asparagales, but a different family. From your post about them I’d have to say they have a greater UQ (unusualness quotient) than yuccas, which of course still fascinate. In any case, I’m glad you finally got to see a picture of yuccas flowering.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2015 at 7:24 AM

  10. This truly is an “essence of Texas” photo. Yucca, prickly pear, rock, Ashe Juniper, and bluebonnets: add an armadillo, and it would be perfect.

    My friend who makes agarita jelly introduced me to yucca flowers in salads. Her claim is that soil affects taste. Whether that’s true I can’t say, but I know she always tastes the flower from a plant before gathering more. Soil can affect everything from a hydrangea’s color to a tomato’s acidity, so I suppose it’s possible.

    As for prickly pear, I’m overrun with the spineless variety just now. I’ve had a couple on the patio, and they became too big and heavy to move, so I snapped off some arms and let them lay around during the winter. Well! They all started putting out new pads, even without being put in dirt, and now one of them has a top pad with five new pads growing out of it. As a whole, the plant’s put out 27 new pads. It’s just extraordinary. No wonder the prickly pear does so well in the wild.


    May 2, 2015 at 8:57 PM

    • If someone had lent me an armadillo I’d gladly have included it in the photograph. Actually there have been armadillos outside the house in Austin from time to time but they like to dig holes in the yard and can be a nuisance.

      I’m going to have to sample a yucca flower the next time I see one, but a problem in northwest Austin is that the deer eat off the tops of many flowering yucca stalks. What you say about the soil affecting the taste makes sense.

      If you’re going to be overrun with prickly pears on your patio, the spineless variety seems a prudent choice. The prickly pears are flowering in Austin now and I managed to take pictures of some yesterday, complete with beetles nestling down inside for pollen or nectar.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2015 at 9:23 PM

      • I just came across a historical note about yucca as a part of early Texans’ diets. At Camp Rio Frio, C.S.A., “a Civil War home guard post, acting as a buffer to protect older settlements from Apaches and bandits…[they ate] prickly pear salad and fruit, Spanish dagger blooms, hominy, turkey, quail and deer meat.” Also, they used agarita for dye, and something called “Brazil root,” but I didn’t get very far toward figuring out what that might have been.


        May 25, 2015 at 7:05 PM

  11. I just recently learned that you can cook with the flowers, and the dishes I’ve made have been outstanding – from scrambled eggs to guatemalan iguashte (pumpkin seed and tomato sauce) to their inclusion in a cinnamon-ancho adobo with a NY strip.

    Out of Abilene

    May 26, 2015 at 2:46 PM

    • Thanks for your testimonial. I’m going to have to dry cooking with yucca flowers, assuming I can find any in my area that the deer haven’t gotten to first. I lived in Honduras for two years and visited Guatemala several times, but I never encountered iguashte, which sounds yummy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2015 at 2:50 PM

      • Iguashte de flor de izote (flor de izote is yucca flower). It is also the national flower of El Salvador where it is eaten extensively. Lots of different dishes in each country.

        Out of Abilene

        May 26, 2015 at 2:52 PM

  12. […] April you saw a landscape view of some yucca plants flowering above a roadside cliff, but I feel I owe you a closer look at blossoms in this genus. Here, then, is a twistleaf yucca, […]

  13. […] Yuccas in central Texas are a lot smaller than Joshua trees, but west Texas has some closer in stature to California’s giants. […]

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