Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Yuccas flowering up high

with 37 comments

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 4th. Sources show three species of yucca in that county. I’m leaning toward Yucca torreyi; Yucca pallida and Yucca constricta are the other possibilities.

Note the pads of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.) that are such a common sight in Texas. Here’s a closer look at both kinds of plants:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 9, 2018 at 4:50 AM

37 Responses

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  1. On my latest visit to the Willow City loop, I discovered the steep hills at the north end of the loop just covered with blooming yucca and prickly pear. Between the angle of the light and the distance, I couldn’t get even one decent photo, but it was a sight to see. This is a particularly nice view of those plants. In its way, it’s just as attractive as any combination of bluebonnets and paintbrush, and it certainly is typical of the interesting mix of plants I found in that part of the world.


    April 9, 2018 at 8:08 AM

    • It’s frustrating, isn’t it, to find something you want to photograph but not be able to because the light isn’t good, or you’re blocked from getting close enough, or some obstacle stands in your line of sight, etc. As you say, at least you got to see yucca flowering in hilly terrain. Fortunately I had good light. On the other hand, when I stopped at the same place four years ago, there had been enough rain that spring for bluebonnets to join the yuccas at the top of the cliff.

      The combinations of wildflowers have appealed to me for a long time. With 100 species you have 5050 possible combinations, and that’s taking them just two at a time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2018 at 8:39 AM

  2. These are common both in Florida and in P.R.. I have one in my blog but it’s called Yucca flaccida, and I just found out now that ‘flaccida’ is also called ‘weak-leaf yucca’, because obviously the leaf tends to bend. This one in your image has very erect leaves. They are beautiful flowers. Would you consider this a dry zone?


    April 9, 2018 at 5:54 PM

    • I looked it up: that area is in hardiness zone 8a and gets 29 inches of rain per year, so you might call it semi-arid.

      There’s a slew of Yucca species in the United States:


      I’m surprised that the one you mentioned grows as far north as Massachusetts. It must be a hardy species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2018 at 7:25 PM

      • I read that also, and was surprised. The USDA map has it in Canada also.


        April 9, 2018 at 7:38 PM

        • I love the BONAP website, but I still consult the USDA simply because it includes P.R., and BONAP doesn’t. Some USDA maps are really outdated, but at least P.R. is included in some of the species.


          April 9, 2018 at 7:54 PM

          • Right. I noticed that BONAP doesn’t include the Caribbean. I see now that the two maps don’t agree on the distribution of Yucca flaccida.

            Steve Schwartzman

            April 9, 2018 at 11:46 PM

  3. The Band-backed Wrens love to nest in the yuccas here in the dry rainforest; whenever I see photos of the blossoms, however, I am transported back to Costa Rica where they cook those flowers during Semana Santa…

    • I’ve heard about yucca flowers being edible but have never tried eating any, whether raw or cooked. I don’t know if some species are more edible than others.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2018 at 7:27 PM

      • In Costa Rica, did you sample the flowers of more than one yucca species?

        Steve Schwartzman

        April 9, 2018 at 7:28 PM

      • They saute onions and peppers while ‘poaching’ the flowers in a pot of water… after the petals have drained, they’re added to the onion mixture, then whisked eggs are slowly stirred – as in very fancy scrambled eggs… only one person showed me how she prepares them, so perhaps there are other options…

        • Sounds like some culinary experimentation is in order, yucca-wise. To my taste, sautéed onions make everything better. (Well, maybe not ice cream.)

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 10, 2018 at 12:07 AM

          • That gave me a great laugh when I read it last night! Still does; perhaps I’ll pass that along to the family to lighten a tense moment!

            • Let me know what reaction you get, especially if anyone tries putting sautéed onions in ice cream. In the Philippines people eat avocado-flavored ice cream, so maybe sautéed onion ice cream isn’t so far-fetched.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 10, 2018 at 3:35 PM

  4. Wow, those are beauties!


    April 9, 2018 at 10:41 PM

  5. It is neither Yucca pallida nor Yucca constricta. It looks like Yucca torreyi, but is it endemic there?


    April 9, 2018 at 11:49 PM

    • Yucca torreyi is native there, but not endemic to that region alone. The USDA map also shows it from there westward across Texas and into southern New Mexico; I suspect it also grows in northern Mexico.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2018 at 11:59 PM

      • It looks just like a Yucca torreyi, but I just do not know the region, or where Yucca torreyi is from. The name makes it seem like it is from Southern California, but I know it is not.


        April 10, 2018 at 1:54 AM

        • I found this:


          However, the USDA website doesn’t show synonymy for Yucca torreyi and Yucca faxoniana. Sounds like botanists still have work to do on this.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 10, 2018 at 6:22 AM

          • I learned them as two different specie, with Yucca faxoniana being a bigger and scarier species. The Yucca torreyi has the distinctive densely cylindrical blooms that yours seems to have. Yucca faxoniana has rounded and more open blooms, and the individual flowers might be a bit bigger. The entire genus of Yucca is so baffling. They all hybridize freely as if they are just subspecies of each other. So many of the specie are supposedly naturally occurring hybrids, and so many of the varieties are considered by by some to be different specie!


            April 10, 2018 at 11:23 PM

            • Right. That’s what I meant by “Sounds like botanists still have work to do on this.”

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 11, 2018 at 7:15 AM

              • They might have been the ones who made it so confusing in the first place.


                April 11, 2018 at 9:24 PM

  6. A wonderful sight! I’m usually visiting areas where Yucca grows at the wrong time of year to see those big, bold flowers, but it’s an exciting plant any time of year, I think, even as common as it gets in come places. I like the angle, looking up at it, with the Opuntias at hand and the blue sky….beautiful.


    April 10, 2018 at 1:06 PM

  7. Ever since I have discovered yuccas, they are among my favorite western plants.


    April 10, 2018 at 9:31 PM

  8. I quite like this shot. It looks like quintessential Texas to me.


    May 1, 2018 at 10:05 AM

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