Mutant Yuccas

Some of you may recall a particular Yucca elata / Palmilla that I photographed on a roadtrip years ago. That plant did the unusual and formed a stalk with bulbils.

These two Y. elata in my neighborhood formed similar stalks this fall, long after flowering this past May.



That one is in a clump, with two heads forming stalks each with bulbils! It gets better! Let’s zoom in to see what’s going on.


Below is the second but shorter stalk with bulbils. Freaky!

Yucca_elata-Bulbils1d-SMLI’ve never seen another Yucca species do that, even here in yucca-central, the Chihuahuan Desert and home for much of my last 27 years.


This is what most every Yucca elata looks like on our sandy soil:


A low, clumping habit, instead of tall like on caliche soils.

And no stalks with bulbils!

Not being a botanist, I have no idea why a few Y. elata form such stalks.

Is it only on sandy soils? Is it from a disease or an insect? Is it from unusual periods of varying weather patterns, such as one of the wettest Octobers on record here, with 4 inches of rain following an unusually long, dry, and hot summer? Is it from maintenance or root disturbance?

That means Las Cruces joins such exotic locales as Albuquerque and Deming, in my tens of thousands of miles of driving and being observant, where a hand-full of Yucca elata form bulbils on stalks. Since one can’t drive more than a few blocks in the above places without seeing Yucca elata, this growth must be rare.

Though these Y. elata look like strange, mutant plants, I’m oddly attracted to them.

It’s tempting to “liberate” some of the bulbils to try cultivating, before a stalk is removed by the unknowing…


12/1/18 weather:
56F / 37F / 0.00 or 13c / 3c / 0.0


6 Replies to “Mutant Yuccas”

  1. Have you consulted with a plant pathologist? Some virus infections do that with unrelated plant species.

    I should forward this to someone here at NMSU, since they have a plant sciences and horticulture priogram. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t know that Yuccas could produce bulbils. I only was aware that some Agaves did that.

    I didn’t know, either, until I saw a few Yuccas do this when I looked more carefully.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes! Liberate!!!

    I had something similar happen here last year with the bloomstalk of an Eryngium agavifolium, little plants formed. I should have left them be but I plucked them off the stalk too soon (I think) and unsuccessfully tried to root them before winter.

    If you insist, who am I to argue?!? That’s really interesting with your Eryngium. And that’s why I’m hesitant to try transplanting at this time, given yuccas like it warmer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Maybe a way for the spread of the bulbils to be further than when they make pups (I’m assuming they do make pups).

    That does make sense, though the normal flower-to-become-seed stalks produce loads of seed. Some Y. elata do colonize via rhyzomes, and I knew of one that took over 1/4 of a home’s front landscape!

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