Saturday, 6 June 2009

Yucca desmetiana

Magic lantern slide from Missouri Botanical Garden (1902)

Yucca desmetiana Baker
Gardener's Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette 1870: 1217. 1870.

RGB Kew World Checklist gives accepted name as follows :
Yucca de-smetiana Baker, Gard. Chron. 27: 1217 (1870).
Mexico (Chihuahua)

This name is Accepted by:
Espejo Serena, A. & López-Ferrari, A.R. (1993). Las Monocotiledóneas Mexicanas una Sinopsis Florística 1(1): 1-76. Consejo Nacional de la Flora de México, México D.F..

Family Agavaceae / Asparagaceae

The European Garden Flora gives following description:
Y. desmetiana Baker. Leaves rigid, without an obvious spine at apex; inflorescence, flowers and fruit apparently unknown.

However the RHS Dictionary (first edition 1952) states "An old plant flowered for the first time at Monserrate, Cintra, Portugal, in 1928. Panicle drooping, pyramidal, 3ft. long, 1 to 1-and-a-half ft. wide. Mexico. 1868. "

See Gardeners' Chronicle 86 (1929) 93.

Baker, J.G. 1870: «The known Forms of Yucca. - VI.» Gard. Chron. 30 (3), 1217.


"Y. De Smetiana, Hort. - Stem reaching a foot high below the leaves, 1 1/2 - 2 inches thick. Leaves 150 - 200, extending over a space of 15 - 18 inches, all more or less recurved, purplish green, 12 - 15 inches long, 8 - 9 lines broad at the middle, narrowed to three-eights of an inch above the base, the point not pungent, the edge faintly denticulate towards the base; in the young state, the face flat, except at the point and base, the back but little raised except in the lower quarter, the middle slightly plicate vertically."

Some information roughly translated from German Tropengarten: Attractive Yucca with yellowish-reddish-greenish leaves. It is an old breeding of unclear origin, no habitat location recorded in the original literature. Description 1870 from J.G. Baker. He regards. “De Smetiana” as a hybrid, no data are given the origin, nor a valid species is established. Thus naturally allocation to the parentage remains pure speculation. Blooms are not so far known to me. Hardiness. “De Smetiana” is probably only for the mild garden. The frost tolerance at dry, well drained locations was -14 °C, at least for short term frost duration. Since Y “De Smetiana” remains rather small, it can be planted very well in the small garden. The maximum size amounts to 1 m, more rarely somewhat more larger.

The yucceae (1902) , Trelease, William, pp. 87-8 :

Y. DE SMETIANA Baker, Gard. Chron. 1870 : 1217. Journ. Linn. Soc. Bot. 18 : 222. Kew Bull. 1892 :8.

? Y. Helkinsi Hort.

Caulescent, at length with a trunk 2 or 3 m. high. Leaves rigid, evenly and stiffly recurved, becoming .4m long and 25 mm. or more wide, purple tinged, entire or slightly rough-margined at base, not pungent. Flowers and fruit unknown. Plate 48.

A garden plant ascribed to Mexico, which when small is very suggestive in appearance of a lily because of its crowded arching not at all concave leaves : it is quite unlike any other Yucca, and perhaps not of this genus. No positive record exists of the source of the plants of this species cultivated at the Missouri Botanical garden, but they are believed to have come from northern Mexico, many years ago through Dr. Parry.


Rob said...

Hi Gerald,

I do enjoy your blog! I have a Yucca desmetiana, which survived this last winter of -9C and heavy snow with no damage.

It is a very curious 'non-Yucca-like' Yucca. The purple colour is great for combining with other purple succulents.


Gerald Luckhurst said...

Thanks Rob. Sometimes that purple colour turns up on young Yucca aloifolia too - suggests to me that the theory that de-smetiana is a hybrid offspring might well be correct. The colour effect wears off though with older plants. Also it is very shy flowering. The Monserrate plant is huge - maybe 4m high or more - but I have never seen it flower in nearly 25 years that I have known the garden. Glad to hear that your plant survived the dreadful winter.