Chaparral Yucca Seeds, and a Guest

My last post was about Chaparral Yucca, which is blooming in the Santa Monica Mountains right now.  A  few days after writing the post I was exploring Red Rocks Park in Topanga.  This park takes its name from the sculpted sandstone outcrops that rise from the Santa Monica Mountains.

Wind and water sculpted sandstone ledges

Wind and water sculpted sandstone ledges

Like most of the Santa Monica Mountains, this is a dry area, but it is relatively low elevation and nestled in a canyon, the bottom of which has an infrequently running stream and some lovely oak and sycamore trees.

The side slopes are home to the usual assortment of coastal chaparral plants, but the relatively low elevation, slightly greater water supply, and marginally cooler temperatures means that the plants are on an ever-so-slightly different flowering cycle.

Down here some of the Chaparral Yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei) is still blooming, but other plants are well into the seed setting stage.

Chaparral Yucca seed pods slowly ripening

Chaparral Yucca seed pods slowly ripening

Each of the thorn-like stubs on the branches was a flower.  As you can seen a small percent of the flowers survive to form seed pods.  This year, this is a good crop, in other, wetter, years more might make to this stage.

The pods look like the offspring of a pickle and a ping-pong ball.  Green and slightly warty, divided into three chambers and about the size of a comfortable throwing stone.

Chaparral Yucca seed pod close-up

Chaparral Yucca seed pod close-up

As with the flowers, reaching them is a bit tricky because the basal rosette is composed of lance-shaped leaves crowned with needle tips.  Tips that only seem more aggressive and more prone to break off in your legs as the leaves dry in the increasingly hot summer sun.

Gathering these seed pods was an important activity for many of the coastal tribes as the seeds are edible and nutritious, and unlike the flowers and stalk, the dried seeds can be stored for a long time either whole or ground into flour.

At the moment the seeds are not-yet dried, but are still edible and tasty.

Chaparral Yucca seedpod cross-section

Chaparral Yucca seedpod cross-section

The seeds are flat and black or dark brown, and the capsules look very much like iris or lily seed capsules.  When fully ripe and dry the capsule splits open, disgorging the disk-like winged seeds that flutter to the ground in the frequent coastal breeze.

The green portion of the pod is extremely bitter, so it is best to separate the seeds from the pods for consumption.

The remains of the pods can last for several years in the dry climate.  They look a little like small loofahs hanging on to the dessicated flower stalks.

Chaparral Yucca dried seed pod

Chaparral Yucca dried seed pod

Chaparral Yucca grows in exposed areas in defiance of the sun and shallow soils.  This year even these hardy plants have few blooms and many of the other flowering plants here either didn’t bloom or did so quickly and finished quickly.  Despite the harsh conditions of this year, in some of the darker, damper areas a few plants still show their flowers.

In a little gully, well off the trails, I came across several blooming Scarlet Larkspur (Delphinium cardinale) plants.

Scarlet Larkspur (Delphinium cardinale) still blooming in a shady spot

Scarlet Larkspur (Delphinium cardinale) still blooming in a shady spot

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2 comments on “Chaparral Yucca Seeds, and a Guest

  1. Salina says:

    Hey! I realize this is kind of off-topic but I had to ask.
    Does operating a well-established blog such as yours take a massive amount work?
    I am brand new to operating a blog however I do write in
    my diary daily. I’d like to start a blog so
    I can share my experience and thoughts online.
    Please let me know if you have any suggestions or tips
    for brand new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

    • EarthKnight says:

      Hi Salina,

      Thanks for the comment and question. It would be nice to think of this as a well established blog, but I still fee like it’s in the formation stage.

      If I’m on the ball I post once a week (life has been complicated recently and my posting frequency is erratic). Each post takes perhaps an hour to write, maybe an hour to three to research, and whatever time it takes me to take the photos and process them. Some of this work I am doing anyway, particularly the photography aspect, and I usually write based on what photos I have that I can use to tell a story. Sometimes I’ll go hunt down specific photos for a story I have in mind.

      Call it a total of 5+ hours per post, with only an our of so of that actually feeling like work.

      I’d suggest planning out what you want your blog to be about, and how you want to present it. It took me a long while before I finally began one because I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted to do with it. Having a blog that is somewhat focused helps both you and your visitors.

      Also, learn how the site you’ll be using works, maybe set up a side blog to experiment with and see what you can and can’t do with the software. I made some changes in the structure of this one, but the old file-path names are still in place and it makes for clumsy URLs in some cases.

      Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter.

      Good luck with your work!

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