Friday, June 22, 2018

Spiky-head, Multi-branch, Blooming Yucca (Elata/Soaptree)

This is one rare article that I'm not totally convinced of my subject's ID. The 3-tile composite image shows an entire multiple-branch plant and enlargements of two prominent features—end of a branch with leaves radiating out from the center (rosette), and one of the bloom stalks. At one time, I thought the plant might be a Joshua tree because of spiky heads and multiple branches.

From “Not all yuccas are Joshua trees”:
Known as soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) because a sudsy cleansing agent was once pounded from of its roots by Native Americans, this is another widespread yucca found from Arizona east through New Mexico and Texas and south into Mexico. … Unlike the Joshua tree that has rigid leaves, the leaves of the soaptree yucca are pliable and move about on windy days. More about soaptree and soapweed later.

Requests for ID Help

I'd sent requests, accompanied by image or link to image to the following types of recipients:
  • Techie email group
  • LinkedIn (Public + Twitter)
  • Neighbor who might know someone knowledgeable
  • Neighborhood email group
Techie Group Help

I received two responses. Dave's Garden was helpful. iNaturalist seemed more overwhelming than I had in mind to poke around in.

LinkedIn (Public + Twitter) Help

In the two months my post was up, LI reported 139 views, 3 likes, and no comments. I'm not sure how LI knows people "view" posts. My post included "Help w/IDing this blooming yucca plant pls?" and a 2-tile image—too short to require "...see more" expansion.

Neighbor Help

A neighbor who retired from working at the Sierra Club had a friend who tried to help. That friend also requested help from others. He and friends agree the plant is "likely" elata yucca (soaptree), and provided a yahoo image site. The range he provided includes areas "far W. TX, S. NM, & S. AZ". Maybe the plant is a bit far from its normal area, and that's why it's not common in my neck of the woods.

Neighborhood Group Help

One person prefaced info by first modestly declaring no expertise about yuccas. However, the replier, based on looking at the picture and Wildflower Center database, opted for yucca elata (soaptree).
A helpful suggestion was entering "yucca" and space in the "Enter a Plant Name" field. This action causes prospective terms to pop up. Another possible action was to try "Smarty Plants Question Topics".

Comical Attempts to ID Yucca By Using Google Images

I ran across someone I've seen often on my neighborhood treks who suggested I Google for how to have Google help ID an image and try it. From Google’s support page:
Upload an image
On images.google.com or any Images results page, click Search by image Search by image.
Click Upload an image.
Click Choose file.
Select the image from your computer.
Sounded good and easy! I uploaded a lasso-selection of the plant.
Google guessed "cushion", and provided images of cushions.

I uploaded a 2nd image, this time a full-size unmodified one. (Locational identifiers blanked for this blog article.)
Google guessed "pond pine", and provided images of pond pines.

I uploaded a 3rd image, a closer-in view of the leftside leaf branch, uncropped and unmodified.
Google guessed "agave azul" and provided images of "agave azul". Well, not ok.

Attempts to ID Yucca By Using YouTube

I decided to see if YouTube might help ("how to use Google images to ID unknown item").
In these cases, it seems that the images might have been more obvious than mine. I abandoned further pursuit.

Soapy Syllable—Soaptree vs. Soapweed Yuccas

While Googling "yucca elata", I noted the common name is soaptree yucca. However, I've also encountered "soapweed" in some articles that described elata/soaptree. Turns out that soapweed yucca is the common name for "yucca glauca". Soaptree and soapweed yucca are not the same yuccas, and do not resemble each other.

Dave's Garden's "Introduction to Yuccas" has good sections about these two types of yucca and pictures for contrast.
Yucca elata (Soaptree Yucca) This southwest U.S. and Mexican native ... short tree Yucca with a reliable branching habit with multiple heads of thin, pale green leaves with distinctive fibers along their margins. The leaves have sharp tips but are fairly flexible .... It has cold hardiness down to about zone 6a (-10F or -23C). This plant needs very well draining soil and full sun.
Yucca glauca (Soap Weed, Bear Grass or Great Plains Yucca) This small, stemless or short-stemmed, wispy to spiny plant is a cold hardy native of the Midwestern U.S. .... Some varieties are somewhat soft and have relatively harmless leaves while others have dagger-like, stiff and incredibly sharp blades. This is probably the hardiest of the Yuccas, growing happily in the snow-covered Rocky Mountains where temperatures dip down to -30F or -34C.

Confusion Over Images of Yuccas with Spiky Heads, Multiple Branches

As if differentiating soaptree and soapweed weren't enough for my wee yucca knowledge, Dave's Garden site included additional pictures of spiky heads of leaves besides yucca elata. The following sections show at least one picture each of leaves that radiate from a "head" center.
  Yucca faxoniana (syn. Yucca carnerosana; Eve's Needle or Giant Spanish Dagger)
  Yucca filifera (Tree Yucca or Peter-pan Palm)
  Yucca rigida (Blue or Silver-leaf Yucca)
  Yucca rostrata (Beaked Yucca).

As for multiple branches, the following sections show at least one picture.
  Yucca filifera (Tree Yucca or Peter-pan Palm)
  Yucca brevifolia (Joshua Tree)
  Yucca filifera (Tree Yucca or Peter-pan Palm)
  Yucca filifera (Tree Yucca or Peter-pan Palm)
  Yucca filifera (Tree Yucca or Peter-pan Palm)
  Yucca grandiflora (Large Flowered Yucca)
  Yucca filifera (Tree Yucca or Peter-pan Palm)
  Yucca rigida (Blue or Silver-leaf Yucca)

Unless or until I hear from someone who declares me incorrect, I'll go with the flow that my picture is probably of a yucca elata (soaptree). :-)

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