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Chaparral Yucca
Hesperoyucca whipplei

About Chaparral Yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei) Hesperoyucca whipplei (syn. Yucca whipplei ) (chaparral yucca, Our Lord's candle, Spanish bayonet, Quixote yucca, common yucca, foothill yucca) is a species of flowering plant closely related to, and formerly usually included in, the genus Yucca. It is native to southern California, United States and Baja California, Mexico, where it occurs mainly in chaparral, coastal sage scrub, and oak woodland plant communities at altitudes of 300-2500 meter. It produces a stemless cluster of long, rigid leaves which end in a sharp point. The leaf edges are finely saw-toothed. It often grows in sandy washes in the desert or inland valleys.

The plant typically takes 5-10 years to reach maturity, at which point it amazingly shoots up a flower spike to about 10-15 feet in about 2 weeks of growth. The spikes bear a spectacular display of hundreds of bell shaped white to purplish flowers. The fruit is a dry winged capsule, which splits open at maturity to release the seeds.

It is pollinated by the California yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata), a relationship which has become a classic example of symbiosis. Working at night, the female yucca moth collects up to a dozen sacks of pollen grains called pollinia and forms them into a massive ball. She then flies to another plant and lands on the ovary of a flower. Standing with her head near the stigma, she inserts her ovipositor into the ovary wall and lays a single egg. She then rubs her pollen mass against the central stigmatic depression, ensuring pollination. The pollinated ovary will now produce many seeds, ensuring an ample food supply for the larva. Although many associations of Yucca and yucca moth exist, Tegeticula muculata and Hesperoyucca whipplei form an exclusive relationship.

After the flowers have been pollinated, Hesperoyucca whipplei dies, though the stalk will typically stay upright for several more years.

Hesperoyucca whipplei is used in xeriscaping in Southern California, but reportedly is difficult to grow outside of its native range. It is extremely drought tolerant and thrives in clay soils.

It was used extensively by Native Americans.Fiber from the leaves was used for sandals, cloth, and rope. Young flowers are edible but may be bitter. The Kumeyaay of San Diego County boil them in water and then pour off the water three times before eating them. The stalk of the plant can be eaten. Fruits can be eaten raw, roasted, or pounded into meal. Seeds were roasted and eaten whole or ground into flour.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
2 - 12 ft (0.6 - 3.7 m)

Max. Width
2 - 3 ft (0.6 - 0.9 m)



Growth Rate



Flower Color
Cream, Pink, Purple, White

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Dry slopes


Elevation ?
26' - 8290'

Annual Precip. ?
5.4" - 50.2"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 2.76"

Coldest Month ?
33.5° F - 55.6° F

Hottest Month ?
53.9° F - 83.9° F

Humidity ?
0.98 vpd - 34.55 vpd

Soil Description
Prefers rocky soils

Soil PH
6 - 8


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 25° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 3, 7*, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24

Companion Plants
Mission Manzanita, Spiny Redberry California Buckwheat, California Sagebrush

Wildlife Attracted
Attracts the Yucca Moth, which co-evolved with this plant. Also attracts California Thrashers.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low, Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Seldom Used

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water, 1x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Organic with Rocks

Pruning is not required, however it may need to be removed when it dies after flowering. If you have room, leave it to allow the yucca moth larvae time to mature.

Pest Control
This plant has few or no pest problems

Propagation ?
Easily propagated by seed.  For propagating by seed: No treatment.

Common uses
Groundcovers, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens

Other Names
Botanical Names
Yucca whipplei;Yucca whipplei ssp. cespitosa;Yucca whipplei,Yucca whipplei,Yucca whipplei ssp. cespitosa

Common Names
Our Lord's Candle

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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