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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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…

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

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Take a Walk

90 minutes walking nearby, good landscape design was a bonus to the exercise and temperatures in the high 60’s F / 20 c.

All photos were captured with my iPhone. Cue this fine song by Calexico.

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A well-contrived stepped wall profile and its stucco color play nicely with a trio of our Dasylirion wheeleri / Blue Sotol.

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With more shrubs and only 2 far-separated accents of Yucca torreyi / Torrey Yucca and Dasylirion wheeleri, this is reminiscent of xeriscape designs a few hours north.

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Artemisia filifolia / Sand Sagebrush, Ericameria nauseosa / Chamisa (yep, “nauseosa” – sniff the blooms!), and Fallugia paradoxa / Apache Plume. It holds moderate interest all winter, but when the Artemisia is weighted down by monsoon moisture together with the Fallugia covered in white blooms and pink seedheads – wow!

All those plants occur in nearby arroyos, except the chitalpa tree in the couryard. Don’t get me started on that tree and those who still use it in futility.

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I’ll have to wait to capture area masses of Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Prostrata’ / Trailing Rosemary. There were many well-massed, flowering examples a couple weeks ago, but …

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Our first freeze on 11/12 was right near our average date, except the 18F / -8c low the following morning was rather early. So were the next 4 mornings below 28F / -2c. Hence, most of our area’s trailing rosemaries were in active growth and shocked.

Fortunately, an abrupt change to freezing rarely affects the whole of a design based on principles such as sense-of-place, form, or rhythm.

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The next neighborhood over, with much larger lots and grand views, and it’s a foreground of yet another near-native, from the 5,500-7,500 foot elevations of our stage set of the Organ Mountains. The evergreen Nolina greenei

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Nothing unusual is at this house, which is a common theme in parts of Las Cruces.

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It uses well-placed evergreen accent or succulent plants, to evoke our local sense-of-place all year. Yucca baccata / Banana Yucca, Fouquieria splendens / Ocotillo, with Torrey Yucca, a couple blue sotols, and a large Opuntia ellisiana / Cacanapa Prickly Pear. It’s economical, requiring little maintenance or irrigation. That house’s front yard nicely contrasts the almost peachy stucco color and the dusty-blue desert skies.

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Finally, this is somewhat like the above landscape, except there are trees.

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Prosopis pubescens / Tornillo or Screwbean Mesquite outside and a Prosopis glandulosa / Honey Mesquite inside. Plus, various agaves, sotol, and other spikiness were used in a naturalistic manner.

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11/25/18 weather:
59F / 44F / 0.00 or 15c / 6c / 0.0

Roadtrip: Sidetracked as Always

Even on a fast trip where time is everything, I try to seek out some inspiration in nature or a garden space.

Some young Agave americana were planted in a squarish bed of Nasella tenuissima, as I awaited a homemade donut from a brand new restaurant next door to this Marfa planting.

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When visiting that town only every several months like I do, there’s often a new restaurant open but a couple more closed.

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Tucked into a corner on my Friday walk to stops on “Made in Marfa” and a couple more rare Judd installation viewings…

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The Chihuahuan Desert doesn’t lack in Opuntia species any more than it lacks in yuccas and ocotillos. This is a form of Opuntia macrocentra, with pad tops in red-purple and shorter, gray spines.

It’s clearly Opuntia macrocentra. Many people in El Paso and Las Cruces cannot tell O. macrocentra apart from many other cacti such as O. camanchica or O. phaecantha. Just like many panic, because they cannot discern bullsnakes from rattlesnakes!

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Annuals like Cosmos are seeded into some challenging planters, but really cheer up cloudy days. Other places with equally narrow planting areas use grasses like this regional native Muhlenbergia emersleyi.

Why not xeric, native grasses on the Chihuahuan desert grassland?

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That is, instead of habitual, mesic eastern or European grasses as nondescript places do, like Denver or Denver-wannabe, Albuquerque. Yep – I speak the truth, as a former Denver and Albuquerque resident.

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Spring and Fall blooming Yucca recurvifolia, planted in…a squarish area of Nasella tenuissima. Certain folks would say this is “well curated”. Not I, since I at least speak US English, not English-du jour..

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And finally one of this small group of trees, which are about the tallest Sapindus drumondii specimens I’ve ever seen.

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