Field of Science

Friday fabulous flower - yucca in contrast

This is just your basic yucca although with variegated leaves, but it is a bit more dramatic because here it is standing in front of a weeping copper European beech and the dark purple of the leaves makes the creamy yucca flowers stand out.  Yucca demonstrates and interesting pollination biology called an obligate mutualism. The yucca gets pollinated only by yucca moths and then in a very specific manner. The yucca moth female lays her eggs inside the pistil of the flower, and then she gathers a ball of pollen, climbs the style and places the pollen directly upon the stigma to assure that her offspring have ovules, developing seeds, to consume. The egg laying is gauged such that not all of the seeds get consumed. This is the only place the moth can reproduce, so each party, the plant and the moth, absolutely require each other to reproduce; both parties benefit and both parties need each other. However since humans cultivate the yucca it can be grown in places where the moth does not live, and people can also pollinate the flowers to make seed. Yucca isn't native to the upper Midwest, but in places the moth does exist interacting with this rather common introduced ornamental

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