Native yucca sharp addition to landscape

Being sharp is usually considered a compliment. It implies the recipient of this assessment has the intellectual ability and the mental agility to handle the rigors of contemporary life with ease.

Sharp individuals anticipate coming events and prepare for them with preemptive actions which lead to a better than typical outcome. This proactive approach leads to an assured result which translates into a higher quality life.

Even when the unexpected does occur, the sharp individual is always ready with an excellent response followed by an effective offensive strategy. The preparation guarantees a long and prosperous existence with as few problems as possible.

In Franklin and Gulf counties’ native plant world, the yucca genus established this practice long before people employed it. It also has the sharp pointy spines to accentuate its image and enforce its tactics.

Local yuccas are perennial shrubs which may grow into small trees with irregular shapes. There are approximately 50 species in this genus worldwide on every continent except Antarctica.

Their most obvious and notable feature making them easy to identify is their leaves. These are extremely elongated in thick clusters around the stems.

The sword-like shape is tipped with a hardened point which can quickly get the attention of anyone passing too close. The bristly structure of these evergreen plants gives them an intimidating appearance most animals and people will avoid.

The annual blooms appear at the top of these plants and protrude above the greenery. Honeybees and other pollinators will visit the profuse fragrant bell-shaped flowers to collect nectar and pollen.

In their native range, these plants are seen in sites where there is long exposure to the sun. They will not grow in heavy shade, and languish with little growth if there is less than six to eight hours of sun.

Sandy well-drained soils are the most likely locations where yuccas will prosper and grow. Their nutrient requirement is low, so they rarely display symptoms of a nutrient deficiency.

Likewise, their need for water is minimal. Once established they will easily withstand droughts and extended dry periods.

The common species native to north Florida in this genus are Adam’s needles (Yucca filamentosa) and Spanish bayonets (Yucca aloifolia). These plants are similar in appearance, but each has distinctive traits.

Adam’s needles are the smaller and shorter of the two species. The multiple stems may reach three feet in height, but extend to over six feet when the cream color blooms appear in early summer.

The green leaves are pliable with white threads of fiber trailing from each. There is a variegated cultivar which is popular for landscaping projects.

Spanish bayonets produce multiple trunks per plant and may grow to over 15 feet. They produce rigid dark green leaves projecting from the thick trunks and will impale any trespasser.

White blossoms appear in the center of the plant above the foliage from spring to late summer depending on several weather-related factors. These yuccas have a high salt tolerance, making encounters with wild specimens common to coastal areas.

Disease and insect problems are few for these hardy plants. Too much water resulting in excessively wet roots and extreme cold are the biggest problems.

For the sharp homeowner looking for a low-maintenance alternative, these native plants make a pointedly good addition to the landscape. They also make a hedge which will blunt almost any intrusion.

To learn more about this durable plant family in Gulf and Franklin counties, contact the nearest UF/IFAS County Extension Office or visit To read more stories by Les Harrison visit and follow me on Facebook

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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