Yucca whipplei flowering in its native habitat
Yucca whipplei
Yucca whipplei is an evergreen, stemless flowering plant native to southern California, United States and Baja California, Mexico. It was first named and described by American botanist John Torrey (1796–1873), and was introduced to European gardens in 1854. However it has since been reclassified and is the accepted name is now Hesperoyucca whipplei. Unfortunately there is still some controversy regarding this change.

Yucca whipplei blooms
Yucca whipplei blooms
As a separate genus,  Hesperoyucca was first described by German-American botanist George Engelmann as long ago as 1892. Surprisingly it is only recently that DNA analysis has been able to confirm that it is genetically distinct from Yucca. That being said, the accepted name of Hesperoyucca whipplei is still not widely reflected in current literature or online, and so (at least for now) Yucca whipplei is still name in general usage.

Yucca whipplei is a stemless species which develops a dense, globular clump of long, narrow, rigid, spine-tipped leaves. Each leaf is finely toothed, glaucous, 20–90 cm (rarely to 125 cm) long and should only be handled wearing suitable gloves and arm protection. The large fragrant blooms are greenish-white, edged with purple, and appear in May and June. They are produced in densely packed panicles at the end of an erect 1.0-3.6 scape ( long, leafless flowering stem). It is pollinated by the California yucca moth which has since become a classic example of symbiosis.

In its native habitat, Yucca whipplei is usually found growing in chaparral, coastal sage scrub, and oak woodland. It is suitable for planting in subtropical, mediterranean and warm temperate environments.  Although able to withstand frost, in the United Kingdom it can only be recommended for sunny positions in the mildest counties and will require a very well-drained soil. Avoid heavy or clay soils or any which are prone to waterlogging.

Yucca whipplei received the Award of Merit (AM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1945.

Image credit - By Noah Elhardt - Own work. Camera: Sony DSC-S70., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=642379

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