Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Giant Yucca

She stood under the Giant Yucca, a sliver of shade in the mid day sun. The chard of her deer hide garment rippling lightly in the breeze. It had been seven days since she had slipped away from the tribe. Three winters she had slept in the mud wattle, three years since she had seen her mother. And now at 13, she stared into the bush of the Yucca in the gravelly soil of the desert scrub and wept.

The Giant Yucca also known as Yucca faxonia, Giant Dagger, Spanish Bayonet and Palma Samandoca is the largest of the yuccas and grows prolifically in the Trans-Pecos. The upright single trunks can reach a circumference of six feet and some thirty feet tall. Sharp pointed leaves protect the terminal stalk and the creamy white bell shaped flowers attract a wide variety of animal life including, big horn sheep, bees and humming birds.

Indians roasted the young flowers and the reddish fruit pods for food. Vaqueros and cowboys have cut the trunks during droughts in parched lands to let cattle chew on the inner stalk.

Giant Yuccas generally grow in elevations above 3000 feet and prefer desert scrub or grasslands. The Dead Horse Mountains near Black Gap Wildlife Management Area provide an ambitious display of the Giant Yucca plant community. Associated species in this part of the Trans-Pecos include gramas, mariola, lechuguilla, sotols, cenizos, acacias and mimosas.

Recently the City of Alpine, Texas was awarded a Champion Tree Certificate for the Giant Yucca growing at the southeast end of City Hall. The plant measured over 23 feet high, a crown spread of 10 feet and a trunk circumference of six feet. It is the largest know Giant Yucca in Texas.

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