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Sunday, January 25, 2009

feeling yucca


What must this yucca think of Michigan? Yuccas love dry, hot climates. No wonder this one's leaves look a little combative jutting through the snow, but the tall stalk of blossoms looks happy in the July heat last summer, below. Well, I guess it's me who's feeling that it doesn't belong here. Do plants feel?

-
I don't really understand planting yuccas in the Midwest (what does "Midwest" mean anyway? We are not west at all - see the red area in the map - though we once were, compared to the "East," that is, New England there along the Atlantic and thumbing up into New Brunswick and Quebec.) Even though this is a hardy species, the plant seems like a desert misfit here in the north. (Amazing how it stays evergreen through the winter. Tough plant.)

Spiky points? They belong with Saguaro cactus, Joshua trees and Birds of Paradise -- all picturesque. Oh, the desert must be beautiful in bloom in springtime. But that's where they belong, in the desert. We have lived on two farms in Michigan, and both had yuccas planted by the previous residents. The energy doesn't feel quite right, but I can't bring myself to remove them.

When we lived in California five years I was a misfit living there among yardfuls of succulents - a northern girl in a desert landscape. I am at home among pine forests, goldenrod and Timothy grass, white sand dunes in view of Lake Michigan's layered aquas and blues, autumn leaves, winter snow and ice, and a wood stove glowing with heat. I suppose it doesn't always follow that where you grow up you also feel at home in the landscape. Or that you don't feel at home where you didn't grow up.
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As for this yucca, does it long for the Mojave Desert, or feel glad to cool down here? Just because it's a tough plant doesn't mean it has to live in a hot arid place. Maybe its toughness helps it thrive through Michigan winters.

When the spent yucca blossoms fall from the chandelier atop the stalk and get impailed on the spiky leaves, would you call it self mutilation? Ouch!


This is the only photo I have of a full yucca plant - cropped from one Peter took with my Holga. The tall stalk's blossoms have passed (and a second next to it without a flowering stalk, and another behind it). It's hard to see the 10-foot stalk in this shot, but in case you're not familiar with yuccas, I wanted to show you.

Oh, I miss hanging laundry outside.

Truth is, the yucca stands just as tall and striking in Michigan as it does in the Mojave Desert. Maybe I just need my Bedouin receptors opened, and I could learn some toughness from the yucca too.


Map image, above, used under Wiki Commons agreement from this site. (My words added.)

Yucca illustration, right, found here.

Please check out Charlie's February alphabet challenge here and on my sidebar. I've already posted a photo a day for 3 months at East Lansing Daily Photo back in 2006, so I won't be participating. But if you want to try, it's fun to do at least once! And February is a short month, so here's your chance.

102 comments:

CSouthwell said...

I think I owe you a thank you in advance! Sorry to see that you wont be taking part. But your reason seems sound, or traumatic, but i wont persue further.

If plants do feel, I'm sure your Yucca, will be rather confused.

Charlie.

Ruth said...

Charlie, if I hadn't already posted a photo a day in the East Lansing Daily Photo a couple years ago, I would jump at your alphabet challenge! I hope you'll get lots of participants. Hope everyone sees my advert on the sidebar!

CSouthwell said...

Thanks again, The Alphabet is only short too. ;)

hehe. I thank you for your support. Hopefully it will be a great success.

Thanks. :)

Susan said...

My friend Joy and I disagree on what is and what is not Midwest. She is from Springfield, MO and thinks that is definitive for Midwest. Being from Ohio's southernmost point is probably debatable, as it is a combination of craggy hills and valley farmland, coal mining and steel mills along the Ohio River (all of which are now shuttered). It seems we are more closely related in that area to Pennsylvania and West Virginia. But where we live now in central Ohio, it's flat acres of soybeans and corn with some cattle and sheep farming and lots of urban sprawl and small towns that have grown too big for their britches. We're right on the edge of the prairie, so I guess that qualifies (barely) as Midwest.

I too think it's weird to see succulents from the desert growing here. And how they thrive is a mystery to me.

Ruth, I always hung clothes on the line when my kids were young and I miss it, too. Putting up a clothesline is number two on the list for spring, right behind garden work. I can't wait to see them blowing in the breeze.

Nice post, dear.

Don said...

maybe you should have a giveaway contest and give the yuccas in the orchard away. I think they will be in the way for the August wedding, and will need to move anyway!

How does one ship a yucca?

Susan said...

Don, verrrry carefully! :)

shicat said...

Ruth, I love it when you write about Michigan. It makes me realize how lucky I am to live here. Lately, it seems that Michigan is the black lagoon and we are the creatures!
As for Yucca,what a plant. My mother tried to remove her Yucca and within a year it was back. Very hardy species.

Sharon said...

Beautiful post as always Ruth.

Yucca grow wild here where ever there is sun, so I'm assuming that they're just naturally hardy plants and are quite at home under your white blanket of snow.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Ruth, I have wondered the same thing about Yuccas myself...Very hardy species indeed.. they grow here too. and they seem to thrive.. there must be something about these plants we need to know more about.. maybe it would make us more hardy too!!

I never knew they had a 10 ft. flower stock though.. wow!

My "hens and chicks" being in the succulent family have a very tall bloom too at least for the height of the plant ...about 2 Ft. tall.. and full of pinkish blooms running all the way along it.. they are planted in a heatsink... where not much else would grow.. just in 1/4 inch bare gravel against the foundation.. I don't know where they get there nourishment..as I don't baby them or water or feed them...

The bloom you have pictured is very beautiful..

I never could figure out the boundaries of that "midwest" designation either...

Gwen Buchanan said...

The gravel is deep it is just 1/4 to 1/2 inch in individual size... just to be clear on that...

BofMouais said...

I just stumbled across your blog and I really enjoyed this post. The photos are gorgeous, especially the yucca in the snow.

Thanks for writing.

dutchbaby said...

When I first glanced at your photo I thought I saw porcupine quills in the snow. It's a gorgeous shot, Ruth.

I was surprised to learn that the yuccas can survive the snow until I realized that Death Valley often falls below freezing during the winter months.

Wonderful, informative, inspiring post!

so NOT cool said...

Oh, how I love gardens in winter.

Unemployed Asshole said...

I used to like broccoli, but it is Yucca-ey.

I'll be here all week.

Anonymous said...

beautiful, funny, thoughtful, surprising--keep it coming Ruth!

Divine Morning said...

As a fellow Michigander the whole "mid-west" thing has confused me as well. I had no idea the yucca would grow here. I wonder if it could handle it as far north as I am, about 80 miles from the bridge (Mackinaw).

ds said...

Great post! Maybe the yucca does feel homesick; guess we'll never know. But I think there is some truth in the idea of one's never feeling quite at home where one did not grow up. Not all transplants "take", after all...anyway, I learned a lot from this post. Thanks!

Kayla said...

I think Yuccas are a bizarre plant. I use to hate them because my grandmother had some at the bottom of her yard (she lived on a hill) and it seemed like every time I got a new ball from walmart or a store it would eventually roll down the hill and into one of the waiting yuccas. It was always sad. After a while my grandmother got rid of the yuccas and I think I still have a dislike for them. Poor Yuccas its not their fault.

Stina said...

What's funny is that I actually am from Yucca Valley, yeah that's right...Yucca is right in the name. The plants are all around the arid desert where I'm from along with Joshua trees. This last winter we had a huge (for the desert) snowstorm...and the plants looked a lot like the top picture for a few weeks...it was bizarre...

Loring Wirbel said...

I never knew anyone in Michigan who grew yuccas when I lived there! I never even SAW one until I hit Arizona. It's amazing they continue to grow in winter like that.

Wrensong Farm said...

I grew up in the deserts of So. California and was very familiar with yuccas. I was very surprised to see them growing (and growing well) here in the Pacific Northwest. I guess they are a true American plant, can live just about anywhere you plant them in the US!

photowannabe said...

I was surprised to learn that Yuccas grew in your neck of the woods. I guess I learn something new everyday.
Great post Ruth. You are a master of words.

Oliag said...

Ruth - I love the photo of the yucca in winter...a beautiful winter shot! They certainly are hardy plants..it must have beem a fashion at one time to plant these at the end of the walks in mill villages here in New England because many of the the old houses in these villages have large yuccas there in the front yards...lots of folks are taking them out now but I like them - especially because they are somewhat historical. Come to think of it I should plant some because they may be a plant I wouldn't be able to kill!

Andres Bosque said...

I will for sure try out the alphabet challenge. Congrats on being on blogs of note!

Annie in Austin said...

Maybe the Yuccas miss the East instead of the Southwest? It sounds odd, Ruth, but on the National Wildflower website, the Yucca filamentosa that was common in Illinois gardens (and might be the species in your garden) is listed as native to Long Island and Pennsylvania as well as the entire Southeast.

Maybe the yucca kept moving west so it could look wonderful buried in Michigan snow.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

freefalling said...

I told you we have some sort of weird synchronicity!
As your post was opening on my laptop, I was telling Vince to be careful of my yucca palnt, as he hung (hanged is the proper word, isn't it? but it always sounds wrong) a frame on the wall for me.
I turned back to the laptop and your yucca is looking straight at me!!!
Spooky.

Gwei Mui said...

Hi Ruth greetings and thanks from Gwei Mui in the UK.
I'm new to the blog community and found your site whilst browsing. your photos are really evocotative, they brought a smile to my face. I'm looking foward to following your blog. Please feel free to swing by and say hi at takeawaythoughts.blogspot.com
:)

Ruth said...

Yes, Susan. I wondered on this map, for instance, what the striped states indicate?

Goodee, you and I will have hanging laundry to talk about then. I think it's the most meditative thing I do.

Ruth said...

Well, Don and Susan, how about giving them away on freecycle? That way someone will just pick them up and that's that.

Ruth said...

Cathy, oh dear.

Ruth said...

Hi Sharon! I'm starting to wonder if yuccas are going to take over, like kudzu!

Ruth said...

Dear Gwen, we have some hens and chicks too, in containers. And they keep coming back every year without a bit of tending. Their blooms are beautiful, I spent quite a session photographing them once.

Ok, now we know yuccas are as far north as St. John.

Ruth said...

BofMouais, thank you. I think photos are interesting when they show contrast.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, I learned a lot about yuccas in these comments, and I am very surprised that they are all over. This is one thing I love about blogging - the informative comments!

Ruth said...

so NOT cool, they are completely different, and I love them just as much as in summer.

Ruth said...

Hi, Unemployed, you are too much!

Ruth said...

Anonymous, I'll try, I'll try.

Ruth said...

Divine Morning, Gwen in St. John, New Brunswick says they are growing there, so I think they can handle it by you!

Ruth said...

Thanks, DS. Then there is the thing that happens when you visit a place and feel that you found yourself. Something you didn't know existed.

Ruth said...

Kayla, yes poor abused yuccas. But if your grandma got rid of them, then your balls must have rolled and rolled!

Ruth said...

Stina, whoa! That must have been strangely beautiful.

Ruth said...

Loring, I was like you. I hadn't seen one until 1988 when we moved to the Milford farm. I had an immediate suspicion of them, poor things.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Sue. I hope you're having some lovely days in Northern California.

Ruth said...

Oliag, yes, I think it's almost impossible to kill them. We pulled one and threw it in the woods (yeah, not so nice of us) and it's growing there. Thanks for the positive, thinking of the yucca historically!

Ruth said...

Thanks, Andres! And cool that you're participating in Charlie's alphabet challenge!

Ruth said...

Annie, well thanks a bunch for that information. I have to adjust my perspective now. Poor thing is so misunderstood.

Ruth said...

Letty! How many of these have we had now?? I love it, you know.

Ruth said...

Hi there, Neighbor Gwei Mui! I enjoyed my visit to Take Away Thoughts just now. Good luck with it, and especially with finding what you want to do next.

MAXIMUS said...

Hello from Athens, Greece.

Excellent photos!

I have a yucca on my balcony. It's a tenacious plant but I keep cutting its lower leaves as they are spiky!

delphine said...

Wow! The Yuccas have got everybody spiked up! I have two yuccas in my gardens and also one potted indoors. The one indoors is quite different to ones outside as it doesnt have the really spiky leaves, also it grows very slowly and does not require watering very often. I have had it for 6 years now and it has not incresed much in size. Also thanks for the link to the Feb alphabet challenge, unfortunately I shall be away for half of that month, so cannot take part regretfully; great pictures again today.....

Anonymous said...

Pour 2009, voici mes voeux : je souhaite régler un petit problème du genre détail avec cette grosse tache de si peu président de la république Française, en lui envoyant un avocat. Et toi, cher blogueur ?
voila. Sinon ça, c’est une tentative de gros scandale public, ça peut toujours servir à calmer du monde. Merci pour l'espace d'expression.

Peter said...

I like your comment about the self mutilating plant! There is obvioulsy a reason for this (in nature there normally is one), but what can it be?

... and, yes, hanging laundry outside! Someting you miss when you live in a city (especially when it's not even allowed)!

Sandy said...

Ruth, I looked and you do have the archives for 2006. I'll browse through there. I need lots of time to browse through your older posts, ...I've meant to come back and do that here and there. So I will.

Sandy said...

I think my first comment didn't post...meaning the one I commented on about yuccas, darn. I also commented on that I was interested in seeing your daily photos that you did awhile back for Lansing. and.. then I found the 2006 archives.
don't know why it didn't post.

Rachete said...

I love checking in to see your latest photos. Thank you for sharing these with us.

http://racheteapaintersdiary.blogspot.com/

patriciawinona said...

Your conscious respect for the yucca beneath the snow at your place gives me a bit more sympathy for the myriads of yucca trying to take over my yard here in northwest Arkansas.

Phoenix said...

Awesome, awesome blog!!! Loved the pictures.

TC said...

I have yuccas like yours, they grew by a log cabin that is like 150+ years old across the driveway, I transplanted to the lawn and flowerbeds, can't kill em. Mom told me the name was Adam and Eve plants though? The Yuccas in AZ are fatter spiked I think? Great blog BTW.

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Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Reminds me of the poor palm trees that some overly optimistic soul planted near us. These winters are not a good idea for those, either!!

CottageGirl said...

Clever use of the English, Ruth!!!
I truly enjoy your pics and prose.

rauf said...

i think yuccas are like Indians Ruth, they know how to survive against all odds. Being an Indian is not giving up.

Dave said...

Wow nice photography. I'm starting to add some of my photo's onto my blog too, although they arn't anywhere as good as yours!

humanobserver said...

Amazing snaps but my vote goes to the second image...

Stiggy said...

Hi Ruth!

Our old neighbour used to have a few big Yukka plants outside - and that's in old Blighty here - where it's cold, wet and horrible most of the time.

Great shots as usual!

:D

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Ruth said...

Maximus, ouch! Those spikes poke you? Thank you for your visit, your blog is gorgeous.

Ruth said...

Delphine, hmm, not spiky leaves? You're the second here - Letitia in Australia was the first - to mention an indoor variety.

Too bad so sad about going away and not being able to do Charlie's alphabet challenge. I hope you'll tell us at your blog where you're headed.

Ruth said...

Anonymous, bonne chance.

Ruth said...

Peter, I was stunned last summer when I saw the fallen blossoms impaled on the spikes. I haven't seen the action take place, but it seems almost intentional.

Imagine laundry hanging outside in Paris! The Neopolitan Flag!

Ruth said...

Auntie Sandy, so maybe you have yuccas in your CA yard? That's where they belong, visually anyway. I've learned here that they belong everywhere apparently.

Yes, but you won't find East Lansing Daily Photo here. It was a my-expressions site, same server as my photoblog, Flying. But I deleted it. It isn't easy finding something to photograph that's interesting every day.

Ruth said...

You're welcome, Rachete. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Patriciawinona, well I'm glad for that. After all these comments from around the country, and UK and Australia, I'm concerned they are going to take over.

Ruth said...

Thank you so much, Phoenix! I am jealous of you going to India now. I will wait to see what you have to say with interest.

Ruth said...

TC, oh! That's new. I didn't know they were called Adam and Eve plants. Ok, I'm trying to figure that out. Adam is the bottom spiky part, and Eve is the tall pretty flowering stalk? And did God throw this plant out of the Garden of Eden too, and now it grows everywhere?

Ruth said...

Pamela, oh dear! And that reminds me of the potted palms at Luxembourg Gardens. They treat them as annuals in Paris.

mika said...

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Barry said...

The photos are stunning. I have little left to add to the discussion, except for one side note about hanging clothes outside. Toronto recently had to pass a law declaring it legal for people to hand clothes outside to dry after a gated community attempted to ban the practice.

Noorul Ameen said...

Hi Ruth,
I'm pleasantly taken aback by your surprise to visit to my blog. I've posted my replies to your query in my blog. By chance happened to visit your blog via blogger featured blogs. Instantly took liking for your blog because of your breathtaking photos, layouts and of cos your 'charming' words =). Instinctively i've added to your blog to my blog list as your entries never fails to inspire me. I'm blogging tamil - one of the oldest and proud language of India. I'm really delighted by your visit and wish to learn a lots of things from you. You humanity and simplicity speaks volumes about you from the way you write your thoughts =)

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, why thank you. :D

Still thinking about old movies . . .

Ruth said...

rauf, it's a good trait, and it means you will be here a long time. Yay!

Ruth said...

Dave, I don't know what you're talking about! Your photos are splendid!!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Deepak. I love seeing the yucca blossoms high up in the blue sky too.

Ruth said...

Hi there, Stiggy! Glad to see you around again. You are depriving us of your wit and photographs. Can't wait to see a new lens and shots.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Mika. Your photos over there are interesting. It's great that average people like me can learn photo techniques that only professionals knew before. Well and new technologies too.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, Barry! I have heard about such communities, some not gated. I heard about one that wouldn't allow windows to be opened facing the street. Another that required lawns be mowed in the same direction.

Good for Toronto.

Ruth said...

Dear Noorul, you have touched me, thank you so very much.

I fell in love with the Tamil script at your blog, showed my husband saying "isn't this beautiful?" and I thought it was Tamil, but I wasn't sure and didn't want to say it. So artistic and stylish. You are fortunate to have a long and ancient history. I am learning little slivers about India from rauf and mystic, and I get overwhelmed because there is so much more. Every square inch of India is full of complexity. I'm proud to have you visit and say such kind things.

Sweden said...

Hello. I found your blogg last week, just "klick" at "BLOG of NOTE"- I love it! Greetings from Sweden! Lena

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Bob Johnson said...

Great shots Ruth, yes plants can feel, and they understand music, I sing to plants, not the ones at work, I might look crazy,lol. We have Yuccas in our mall, love em.

Ann said...

We have lots of Yucca plants in Auckland, New Zealand. our weather is mild, like California.

I have a big tree we call the New Zealand Cabbage tree.

Cheers,

MAXIMUS said...

Dear Ruth welcome!(just copied reply from my blog)

Thank you very much for your kind words.

Since "it's all Greek to some of you", I'll try to do sth about it soon, I hope.

For now, I'll just keep visiting your wonderful blog gazing at your great photos.

Ruth said...

Bob, it's true that plants thrive with music and attention. Good point. I think in a modern design setting yuccas are cool.

Ruth said...

Ann from NZ, I just read about cabbage trees, and they remind me of yuccas actually, those spiky leaves. And apparently they are edible!

Ruth said...

Cool, Maximus, thanks so much!

Moi said...

your ode to yuccas make me feel for them, Ruth. And i think transplanted souls are hard-ier than the ones who never moved.........they learn to survive whether the environment cooperates or not. They may have scars to show but they only make them stronger. I am still pondering over the self-mutiliation bit, Ruth.

Viji said...

It's all so new to me... i have never seen snow till today...for us it's always Sun Sun and more Sun...
would really love to witness a real winter and snow and autumn and spring.. but we love the sun, if it hides behind the cloud for a day we complain :)
ur photography is amazing and the way you write :) i loved every bit...

CSouthwell said...

Ruth,

thanks you that link, it certainly has generated some interest, and some much appriciated extra traffic.

Hopefully you will find some of what happens interesting, I'm not sure how many to expect.

But am so excited.

Thanks again,

Charlie.

Ruth said...

Hi Viji, I hope some day you can see and feel snow in person. In Europe, or the U.S. or maybe the Himalayas. My friend rauf was stuck in a blizzard in the Himalayas years ago.

I have never experienced the complexities and intricacies of India, which I hope to one day. And when I do, I hope I can handle the sun!

Ruth said...

Charlie,

I'm so glad my little advert generated some interest in your February alphabet project. I will come over and check it out starting Sunday. Will you be linking to the others who participate?

Anonymous said...

Yucca are native to almost US states, the difference is the southwestern ones are tall and very conspicuous. OR and WA for sure have no native populations, but the Northeast has Yucca flaccida- I have a few PA wild type ones! Cacti as well, except they are native in EVERY state except Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. Of course, eastern half of the US has a single species, a dwarf one- Opuntia humifusa.
Nice pictures!
www.coldhardycacti.freehosting.net

Ruth said...

Good to know, excellent information, Fabian! Thank you very much for taking time.