Monocots such as yucca filifera, yucca rostrata and glauca xanthorrhoea grass trees are so called because when they sprout from seed, they only put up one leaf instead of two. Grasses such as rice, wheat, oats and bamboo are also monocots. Yucca and grass trees are much prized for landscaping for their unique foliage. In addition they are valued for their low maintenance and high durability. Their gorgeous waxy white blooms that grow on tall spikes are well loved by nearly anything that enjoys pollen and nectar making them naturals for bee gardens. The long, narrow spiked leaves can be broken down into fibers for weaving or rope making. If this were not enough, the grass tree has a sticky sap that was much prized by the people of Australia for use as glue.
All three are excellent plants for low-water gardening, as well as a safe bet (once established) for the brown-thumb or exceptionally busy householder who really does not have a lot of time to spare for coddling plants. They like a well-drained, sunny location that has moderate soil quality. They do not, however, tolerate soggy or damp soils. Such locations can easily lead to root rot.
The one caveat to ease of care is that grass trees have a specific soil need. They require a special mycorrhiza that helps the roots to draw nutrients from the soil. Without their substrate helper, they can sicken and die. Care must be taken to support the health of these unseen helpers and to prevent damaging their ecosystem.
With all that said, let us take a closer look at each of these wonderful plants.
Native to Mexico, yucca Filifera chabaud is known to the native people as palma china, izote, palma corriente, or palma grande was discovered by the European explorer Josiah Gregg, who took samples to Europe. It was described for science by J. Benjamin Chabaud who added his own name to its descriptor.
Yucca Filifera grows to be a large tree, with a distinctive rosette cluster of long thin leaves at the top of each stem. It can grow as a single stem or it might divide and grow two or more stems. In its initial growth stages, it is primarily just the cluster of leaves. The stem will develop as it grows.
The long bloom stems droop over from the center of the rosette cluster of leaves, producing clusters of beautiful white blossoms. In its native habitat, the plant is pollinated by a specific moth. When grown in other areas, it must be hand pollinated using a small paint brush if fruits and seed are desired.
The roots contain saponin, and are rated as marginally edible after special preparation.
This is another tree like monocot. It is also known as the beaked yucca, silver yucca, or Big Bend Yucca. The native people call it soyate or palmita. One nurseryman marketed it as “Adam’s Yucca”. In one unique situation it was termed “Nordstrom’s Yucca. It is sometimes confused with Yucca Rigida, but the Rostrata’s needles are more flexible, rendering it a much less hazardous plant to grow. and is one of the hardiest of the tree yuccas. It grows easily from southern Texas to as far north as New Mexico. It has even been successfully grown in Denver, Colorado.
Its foliage forms a perfect sphere, resembling a pom-pom. As it grows, the softening lower leaves form a soft skirt that drapes around the stem. It forms a single, long bloom stalk that carries multiple clusters of white, beaked-shaped blossoms. These, along with the shape of the fruit, give it the nick name, Beaked Yucca. Hummingbirds love this plant, so if you are planning a garden to attract hummers, this is an excellent choice.
Yucca Rostrata likes an alkaline soil, making it a good choice for areas that can be somewhat inhospitable to more generalized vegetation. It is prefers areas of low rainfall, and is therefore excellent for gardens that can expect little rainfall for much of the year.
There are a number of Glauca Grass trees, but the hardiest is the Xanthorrhoea Glauca, which is native to southern Australia. Its long, thin pointed leaves form an untidy mop, not unlike the uncombed hair of a young man. When it has been pruned by burning or when it has survived a bush fire, the down drooping leaves melt together, forming a protective crust around the mainstem, which is also formed of the long, thin leaves drooping down from the cluster. The stem will, after burning, look black. Some people have thought that the tree then looks like a wild warrior, especially after the bloom stalk thrusts up from it because at some angles it seems to resemble a warrior who is ready to throw his spear.
The waxy, white blossoms that form on the bloom stalk are much loved by many sorts of creatures, including humans. The waxy blooms can be soaked in water and fermented to create a sweet drink. The glue-like sap was much prized by aborigines to help attach spear heads to spear shafts (some of which were made from dried bloom stalks), and to repair cracks in water bottles, or just about any use that required something strong to stick things together.
Perhaps even more interesting is the feeling you get when walking into a grove of glauca grass trees. Some of these trees are as old as six hundred years. There is a hush, a sense of history invoked when walking among them.
Farming and industrialization have threatened these ancient giants, as has improper attempts to transplant seedlings. Glauca grass trees require soil that contains a special mycorrhiza, without which they will sicken and die. For these reasons, they are now protected. Only licensed growers who understand how to harvest them in an ecologically sound manner are now allowed to market these living pieces of Australian natural history.
On our property we have a examples of this tree that are over 600 years old. We are privileged to be licensed by the New South Wales Office of Environment & Heritage to sustainably harvest and market these beautiful treelike plants. We are so sure of our methods, that we give a twelve-month survival warranty with all our Xanthorrhoea Glauca plants.
Glad to Help
In addition to our warranty on Xanthorrhoea Glauca, we are always glad to answer questions about our plants. Our goal is to encourage people to plant these and other wonderful trees, so it only makes good sense to be on hand with advice if growth doesn’t seem quite right, or to celebrate your growing and harvesting victories.