When you’re out walking on the prairies in late spring, the delicate white curls of Yucca flowers stick out, standing up in the prairie landscape, raised on masts from clusters of spiky leaves. These flowers are a delicious vegetable snack, slightly sweet and tasting slightly like raw broccoli.
(I’ll have to get a picture of some yucca flowers one of these years. As much as I like them, I try not to eat too many — there are other hungry creatures on the prairie that need the sustenance more than I do, and also I want to make sure that enough flowers have the chance to go to seed to produce more yucca plants.)
After these flowers are pollinated by the yucca moth (in a really fragile, exclusive symbiotic relationship which I’ll describe in a future post), the seed pods start to swell. In this late-summer pic, they have reached a stage where they look a bit otherworldly to anyone unfamiliar with them.
In the second picture, you can see all the bracts where each of the flowers formerly attached to the stalk. You can also see how few of those flowers survived to become seed pods. Now, imagine how few of the seeds in those pods might become plants… yuccas have to work hard to create offspring to replace themselves!
By the fall, these seed pods will turn brown and burst open along the 3 seams you can see here. They’re filled with flat seeds with silky tails that can float away in the wind, not unlike milkweed.