Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguayense)    nice female specimen, winter, UCSC   a formal-looking, evergreen woody shrub grown for its tender young new leaves and stems, which are harvested and processed to make the famous South American tea beverage and uncountable modern energy drinks. These are male plants being offered, which are considered superior for their stronger caffeine (and related compounds) levels and better flavor. To about 8' tall at maturity here with similar spread. Dark green, glossy leaves are tidy and neat, should make a good, tough Mediterranean landscape shrub. Full sun, average to good drainage. Has demonstrated respectable drought tolerance at the UCSC Arboretum, at least for a supposedly tropical-subtropical plant, where a large female specimen receives minimal summer watering. For best yield at least some summer watering must be beneficial. That plant has also survived every major freeze since being planted, including I believe 1990 and 1998. Commercial processing of the leaves involves harvesting, blanching, drying, drying at relatively high temperature, aging (up to 24 months for some grades) and finally grinding/milling. Homeowner processing can be an abbreviated version of that! Southern Brazil, Paraguay. Aquifoliaceae. rev 5/2017 

   semiwoody succulents ranging in habit from dwarfs under 2' to medium size, branching trees. Flowers can be edible, but edibility and palatability varies by species. They are mostly picked very young and fried up, often with eggs or vegetables. They have a pleasant flavor and crunchy texture, but can be bitter and alkaloidal/soapy. Sometimes removing the stigma and ovary can reduce this problem. Agavaceae. rev 5/2017

'Blue Boy'  SPANISH BAYONET, SPANISH DAGGER    nicest specimen, UCB    another, young 'un, UCB      possibly a hybrid of Y. aloifolia with Y. desmetiana?  And that would be Yucca d., not Agave d.! A compact, narrowly upright, evergreen variety grown for the bronzy red to dark burgundy purple leaf color when grown in full sunlight. In the wild Y. aloifolia trunks can reach 12-20' with age, but I've personally never seen a 'Blue Boy' over ~6'. From the leaf size of that plant (UCB) I'm sure they can get quite large. I've never seen this one flower either, in fact I can't find even an image of one in flower, maybe it doesn't, and maybe that points to hybrid origin? Flower spikes of true Y. aloifolia are your typical stunning terminal arrangements, reaching about 2' above the trunk apex and covered in ivory white flowers up to 4" across, often tinted purplish on the outside. If this is just truly variant of Y. aloifolia it's flowers should be edible, even raw, which is often not the case - proceed carefully! Seed pods were eaten by Native Americans at least to some degree, leaves were used for fiber, roots for soaps and shampoo. Grow in full to half sun (you'll lose most of that purple color) and use average soil and drainage precautions. Can be grown with ample to very infrequent watering, depending on how much you like to water. It is very drought tolerant when it needs to be, though not desert-tough. It will also survive in dismal, long-wet-winter climates. If Y. aloifolia it's native to Atlantic Coastal regions from Florida to North Carolina, and along the Gulf Coast west to Texas. Also native to Bermuda, other Caribbean islands and the Yucatan Peninsula. This is the type species for its genus, originally described by the flamboyantly weird Linnaeus himself. USDA zone 7/Sunset zones 7-24, but can die in colder areas when young without protection. rev 8/2018 

elata    SOAPTREE YUCCA    container plant    this species forms a crown about 3' across composed of very narrow, leathery, flexible leaves, each with a small, almost harmless terminal spine. The foliage is quite grassy in habit (especially when young). It quickly (relatively!) forms a trunk, becoming an impressive, captivating subject, reaching sometimes 20' with great age in its most favored habitats (Central Valley, true desert, Great Basin-like situations, inland SoCal etc.). It's slower in cooler areas but ends up at about the same place eventually.  It retains its old leaves as distinctive, downward-pointing thatch, like Y. rostrata. The reason for growing it are those tangled white filaments, which slowly and continuously erode from the leaf margins. Spikes of bright ivory white flowers emerge from each crown in spring, rising to about 6' above the foliage. Found in many desert communities of the Southwest, and it had a wide range of Native American uses. It is quite adaptable and has done very well for us along the coast, even during the very cold, wet year of 2005, except for always trying to lift itself out of the container by swelling it's roots. USDA zone 7/Sunset zones 7-24. rev 12/2006

elephantipes   SPANISH DAGGER,  PALM LILY    flower spike    another   a large, infrequently branched, clumping evergreen species commonly encountered in landscapes statewide. Easily distinguished by wide, flexible medium green to bright green leaves to 2" wide, about 2' long, that lack a hard, sharp point. It can become treelike with great age and form very large clumps, many feet across the cojoined, elephantine bases. Ivory white flowers (fragrant!) appear in late summer or early fall, heaviest in warm summer/warm winter climates such as Southern California. It can be extremely showy but usually not all the terminals in a clump flower at the same time in cooler climates. It is valuable for form and foliage and makes a very effective focal point or accent plant. It also does superbly in containers, especially because it provides a yucca form without the spines. Likes sun, at least average drainage, and at least occasional summer watering, at least in the hottes climates. This species was incorrectly sold as Y. gloriosa in the past, and mostly remains known in the trade as such, but the true Y. gloriosa is much closer to Y. recurvifolia and is rarely seen. Sunset zones 7-9, 12-24/USDA zone 9. Southeastern US. Not currently in production. rev 1/2013

'Ivory Edge'    full shade, commercial building   a wonderful and very striking plant I looked for for a long time. And here it is - again! It grows well in sun or shade, can survive on very little watering or quite a bit, does well either in the ground or containers,  in a container and even as a large interior specimen for your home or favorite mall. It's very neat, the leaves are broader than the regular form, broader and very shiny. In fact I'm pretty sure this is derived from what we nursery trade people here in Californ-I-A ai refer to as "oh, that big tropical-looking thing," which is an uncommon thing that got about twice the size in all dimensions of regular Y. elephantipes It withstood the 1990 freeze outside (19F), unprotected, with just minimal damage to the tips of the leaves. This plant should be widely used, but it has been completely unavailable in the trade and was never common in the first place. There are at least two forms of Y. elephantipes with edge variegation, one stiffer of leaf, more robust in habit and more clustering in nature, also less shiny. The other is this form we currently offer, more solitary, with high luster, and a more relaxed habit with leaves that tend to fold downward about halfway out. This form has a more tropical appearance. Find a way to display it against a wall, against other plants, or as a focal point on its own. rev 8/2018

'Silver Star'    young  plant    even more striking, with leaves shaded silvery green in the center of the leaf, and at maturity often becoming banded ivory white. At its best this plant somewhat resembles Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta' in overall effect except it is less massive and of course forms clumps of stems. Very rare! Not currently in production. rev 8/2018

filamentosa 'Colorguard'    blooming plant    young crown    backlit    winter   Phormium-like   an evergreen, clumping perennial species from the East Coast, the reverse of 'Bright Edge,' this time with green leaf margins and rich gold centers, resulting in brighter, showier foliage. Same flowers and habit but a slower grower. Also shows faint to deep coral tints with cool weather, strongest in full sun. Likes at least half a day of full sun, good drainage, and at least some summer watering. Sunset zones 1-24, USDA probably zone 5 or lower. Eastern US. Agavaceae. rev 1/2013rev 1/2013

gloriosa 'Variegata'  PALM LILY, SPANISH DAGGER   West Cliff Drive, young landscape specimen     flower closeup    foliage color on young nursery plants    fall/winter color  a species confused in the past with Y. elephantipes. This true form of the species is much closer in form and requirements to Y. flaccida or Y. recurvifolia, two other Eastern US species. It forms a trunk very slowly under California conditions, and should be considered mostly as a low rosette in shape until quite old. This is one of its most interesting forms, featuring rough, dark blue green leaves with a powdery white coating, broadly margined with creamy white, which turns intense coral pink for about four months starting in October or November. The leaves have a modest, sharp spine, but the flat leaves fold under pressure from the tip. They are soft enough to move in breezes for a fountain effect. So you get prickled, but usually not pierced. Flowers are to 4" across, white tinged with a little green, on a spectacular spike to 2-3' above the plant. Choice, and rare! Very frost hardy, Sunset zones 5-9, 14-24/USDA 7. Needs moderate to infrequent summer watering. North Carolina to Florida. rev 2/2010

luminosa (rigida)    BLUE YUCCA    at the Huntington    a large, robust, species with stiff, blue white, needle-like leaves. My problem with this plant is that I can't stop taking pictures of it. It does what Y. rostrata does only bigger, bluer/whiter, showier, and more dangerous. There are specatular specimens at the Huntington. This is a large, dome-shaped species, eventually tree-like and branching, with its trunk clothed in old, dry, downward pointing leaves. It is similar to Yucca whipplei except it is larger, and even bluer, and doesn't die after flowering. It is at its best in hot, dry climates in very well drained soils but has grown well for us along the coast and is worth trying well outside of desert environments. The rather small creamy white flowers are produced in dense, erect, branched clusters above the rosette in summer when plants are mature enough and happy. Probably hardy to 10F, USDA zone 7/Sunset zones 5-24. Mexico. rev 8/2018

rostrata    City Hall    at the Huntington      a moderate-sized blue grey species with a hard terminal spine but on a narrow, very flexible leaf. It shows some variation from seed as far as leaf color, leaf edge color, size, etc. Leaf margins are usually golden yellow, and just light up when backlit. Leaves have minutely sawtooth edges that need some care when you are working around it. A central flower spike to 2' will rise above the foliage of mature plants, bearing a heavy show of creamy white flowers in spring or early summer. With age (great age in cool climates) a trunk to 6-12' tall will eventually form. The very regular, even habit, outstanding foliage color, spectacular flower display, fast growth, forgiving culture and relatively unarmed leaves make this one of the best of all for containers, gardens and landscapes. Drainage must be average to good, however, and plants should be sited where winter sun will warm and help dry soil. Gophers can also remove a root system in short order, plan for that when planting if necessary. This also makes an excellent focal-point plant for a hot or very bright site, even with reflected heat. The leaves catch your eye when the move in the wind, acting almost like a fountain for drawing attention. Frost hardy for almost all of California except the most northerly or high elevation areas. US Southwest, Mexico. rev 5/2017

whipplei   Santa Lucia Mountains form, under oaks    massive ssp. parishii at RSABG   sad ultimate fate  how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Just this plant's name immediately sweeps me away to the steep, rugged slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains looming over the Big Sur coastline, where their silvery white clumps are dramatically sited against striking rock formations and picturesque chaparral native plants. Keep your eyes open, populations are variable depending on where they are found. The largest individuals are seen in the the San Gabriel Mountains, in the population sometimes recognized as subspecies (or variety)  parishii. Except for that form (see below) plants will usually flower after 4-10 years, sending up a stunning, terminal, vertical plume of dazzling ivory white flowers on a robust spike to 8-10' or more, and up to 15' for ssp. parishii. Plants of all types will look and grow best in full to part sun with average to good drainage, mineral soils or very light pottings mixes, little or no fertilizing and for almost all sites no summer watering after established. Site it well away from paths, entries etc. rev 8/2018
Santa Maria form    between Santa Maria and Cuyama Valley   closer to Cuyama Valley   recent burn    coastal and near-coastal ranges from Santa Maria up to about Cuyama Valley. Along the Maricopa Highway (CA 166) there it often forms pure stands across the slopes. Mostly large plants, some are grey-silver, some very green, often tinted bronzy or purplish under cool or foggy conditions. Usually pups, usually not many, sometimes not at all. rev 8/2018

Santa Lucias form   Pine Valley Trail    Big Sur, or the rugged, frequently burned range rising abruptly behind. Mostly heavenly silvery white or bluish foliage, even when growing in mostly shade situations. Small, solitary or almost so until flowering, then almost always offsetting at least 1-2 pups. rev 8/2018

ssp. parishii    native ssp. parishii in its habitat     giant old flower stalk   the San Gabriel Mountains population, easily the largest form. Very often reaches over 6' across, almost always showing shimmering, silvery white leaves. It's almost always monocarpic, dying completely after flowering and producing no offsets. When Bart O'Brien was at Rancho Santa Ana he told me some of their specimens were known to be over 60 years old and had still never flowered. They may be more "century plants" than Century Plants! rev 8/2018

Cuyama River/Carrizo form    Cuyama River wash   north end of the Matilija Highway (CA 33, north of Ojai) east into the hills around the Carizzo Plains. Compact, grey green to silvery, often clustering happily and copiously long before flowering. Tall spikes relative to the leaves. rev 8/2018

Tehachapi form  coasting downhill at high speed on 158 toward Bakersfield just outside Tehachapi you will notice, if you can spare a very brief glance towards the roadcut banks while screaming along tire-to-tire with double-trailer and flatbed semis, tall, very green clumps growing with a conspicuously vertical habit.rev 8/2018