Physical Description

  • Cluster of long, rigid leaves, each ending in a sharp point.
  • Leaves have fine saw-toothing all along edges.
  • Flower spike is about 10-15 feet high, made up of hundreds of tiny bell-shaped flowers.
  • Flowers are purple or white.


  • Monterey, California to northern Baja California, Mexico.


  • Found in chaparral, coastal sage scrub, and oak woodlands.
  • Often found in inland valleys.
  • Grows in sandy and clay soils.
  • Grows at elevations of 985 to 8,000 feet.


  • The yucca takes 5-10 years to mature, then grows the 10-foot tall flower spike in only two weeks! 
  • The spike bears hundreds of bell-shaped white to purplish flowers.
  • It is exclusively pollinated by the California yucca moth. The symbiotic relationship allows the plants to be pollinated and the yucca moth’s larvae to have food.
  • The pollinated plant produces dry, winged capsule-shaped fruits that spill open at maturity to spill seeds, feeding the moth.
  • After pollination, the flower dies but will stay upright for many years afterwards.


  • Like all plants, it gets its energy from the sun through photosynthesis.


  • California thrashers, deer, rats, and other birds eat the plant.
  • Kumeyaay Native Americans used the Chaparral yucca for food and as fiber for cloth, sandals, and rope.

Interesting Facts

  • The Chaparral yucca is also called the foothill yucca, Spanish bayonet, and Our Lord’s Candle because of its flower shape.
  • The flowers, stalk, fruit, and seeds are all edible. The young flowers are edible but bitter.
  • The chaparral yucca is very drought-tolerant, requiring little water to survive.

Sources: California Native Plant Society; Writing For Nature

Photo: Beth Besom

See the Chaparral yucca and other native plants in the Native Plant Garden at Living Coast Discovery Center.