Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Yucca flowering in the Texas Panhandle

with 34 comments

Probably the most numerous and certainly the most prominent flowers we saw in the Texas Panhandle on May 27th were those of Yucca glauca, known as soapweed yucca, plains yucca, and narrowleaf yucca. This species grows natively from Texas through Alberta, so it followed us on our trip through the Oklahoma Panhandle, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado again, New Mexico, and back into west Texas.

Today’s photograph is yet another one from the Alibates Flint Quarries. The orange earth in the background was within sight of the place shown in yesterday’s second picture.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 23, 2017 at 4:56 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

34 Responses

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  1. Steve: We have one growing in our backyard…Peoria Heights, Illinois


    June 23, 2017 at 5:26 AM

    • Is it the same species, Yucca glauca? That species doesn’t grow in Austin, but Yucca rupicola is common here, and it’s endemic to the Texas Hill Country.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 23, 2017 at 7:32 AM

  2. I’ve seen yucca extract in everything from shampoo, to drinks, to salve, to pills. The benefits claimed for it seem pretty extensive. My parents had one growing in their yard, in New York, until my father backed into it one day while weeding, and then it was gone.

    Robert Parker Teel

    June 23, 2017 at 8:26 AM

    • Based on the name “soapweed,” I imagine the pioneers made soap from this species. I don’t think I’ve noticed yucca in the ingredients lists of modern products, but I’ll be on the alert for that now that you’ve mentioned it.

      Do you know what species of yucca your parents had growing in New York? To my surprise, I just noticed that Yucca flaccida grows natively on Long Island, where I grew up.

      I might even have seen some but wasn’t aware of such things back then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 23, 2017 at 8:35 AM

      • I don’t know the species, looked very much like your photo, as I remember. It was growing in the garden when my parents bought the house, and looked pretty out-of-place in the snow. My father never cared for it. So when the yucca took it into its head to attack his backside one day, he killed it with a shovel. For a gardener, he’s kind of excitable.

        Robert Parker Teel

        June 23, 2017 at 8:43 AM

        • Most likely the yucca wasn’t native up there. It could well have been a cultivar available through plant nurseries. Whatever it was, it met an untimely end. Too bad.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 23, 2017 at 8:46 AM

  3. Did you by any chance go over to Lipscomb County where a massive wildfire occurred back in late Feb-March? It would be interesting to see what sprouted after their fire. I’ve seen lots of yucca glauca up there in the past.

    Judy T

    June 23, 2017 at 8:52 AM

    • No, I hadn’t heard about that massive wildfire in Lipscomb County (which I just looked up on a map), so I didn’t go there. It would indeed be interesting to see what has come up there after the fire. If you’re close enough to that area, perhaps you can go and check it out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 23, 2017 at 9:09 AM

      • No, I live in the Bastrop burn zone, but I have cousins in Lipscomb.

        Judy T

        June 23, 2017 at 4:06 PM

        • Let’s hope you’re “kissing cousins” so you can make a visit. I remember how quickly some vegetation sprang up after the Bastrop fire. Certain species that had been choked out by the thick layer of fallen pine needles suddenly had a chance to do their thing. One I observed was a white prickly poppy:


          Steve Schwartzman

          June 23, 2017 at 4:10 PM

          • Yes we are, but they wouldn’t know a plant if it grew in their hats! I’d love to get up there. Had unusual plants appear on my property, too after our fire.

            Judy T

            June 23, 2017 at 5:37 PM

  4. And how did you direct the sky to paint such a lovely design as a backdrop?! Beautiful!

    I will always associate yucca flowers with Costa Rica’s Semana Santa traditions. The flowers are boiled/steamed, drained then folded into a scrambled-egg mixture for breakfast…. Por favor, pass the hot sauce!

    • Well, it’s not entirely natural, I’m afraid, but due to dissipating airplane contrails. That said, the feathery patterns added a lot to the picture.

      While I know—and I think we may even have discussed it—that yucca flowers are edible, I’ve still not tried any. I should remedy that. Do the flowers per se have much of a taste?

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 23, 2017 at 1:59 PM

      • They are a bit bitter, though they are ‘silky’…. mixed with eggs, onions, peppers, etc, they’re not so overpowering….

        • If the flowers are a little bitter, I wonder if the sweetness of honey or ice cream would offset the bitterness in a different way.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 23, 2017 at 3:35 PM

          • Yucca-flower ice cream! Ha, that’s an interesting concept! Squash blossoms in Mexican food, so why not yucca turnovers/empanadas?!! I’ve found that carrots often offset a stronger vegetable, like Swiss Chard – maybe the yucca and carrot would blend well as a salad… the colors would pair well for sure!

            • You’re in a position to give it a shot. We await your report.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 23, 2017 at 5:59 PM

              • That made me laugh! Last week in Jama I gestured toward a blooming yucca and told them about its culinary properties. They didn’t seem curious at all – and I did not want to destroy their flowers! Will let you know if/when there’s an experiment!

  5. I don’t remember seeing those “opposed diagonals” in one of your photos before (the yucca leaning to the right, the hillside climbing to the left). And the gentle vortex in the clouds, with the yucca flowers right in the middle, looks enough like a tropical system that it occurred to me. If they named storms after flowers, and we got to Tropical Storm Yucca, it would have been a very bad year, indeed.


    June 24, 2017 at 8:08 AM

    • I’m sure I’ve played up opposing diagonals in other pictures, but I don’t know how to find one quickly for comparison. In this case the diagonals are close to perpendicular, which means (sayeth the teacher of algebra) that the slopes of the lines are negative reciprocals of each other. That relationship is storm enough for most people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2017 at 8:43 AM

  6. People grow yuccas here and they straggle along. How much better to see them blooming where they belong!


    September 11, 2017 at 8:05 AM

    • Agreed. I just noticed that in my text I said that this species of yucca ranges as far north as Alberta. That’s where we’ve been for two-and-a-half weeks, though we haven’t noticed yuccas of any kind so far.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2017 at 10:51 PM

      • Have you? How cool.


        September 14, 2017 at 9:45 AM

        • Speaking of cool, snow fell overnight in Banff National Park. Here in Calgary we had rain.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 14, 2017 at 9:55 AM

          • Really? Hard to imagine in this heat wave that has arrived here.


            September 15, 2017 at 9:04 AM

            • Yes, and yesterday we arrived back in Texas, the land of the 90s. Barely a thought of snow here, even in the winter.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 15, 2017 at 10:25 AM

              • My puppy and I are getting a few extra trips to the lake with this warm spell. Can’t wait to see what he thinks of snow. Better yet, maybe Illinois just won’t get snow this year 🙂


                September 17, 2017 at 9:48 AM

                • Then you’ll be like Austin, which barely ever gets snow, and even then just a little bit.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 17, 2017 at 11:23 AM

  7. The background really highlights this remarkable plant, Steve.


    July 17, 2019 at 9:31 PM

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