Yucca Swirls

Yucca blades, Arizona

I was hiking up Loy Canyon in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness west of Sedona. I had gone from high desert valley floor vegetation of Pinon pine and juniper, up into the Ponderosa pine zone, then back into dry, tough manzanita on a high south slope. I was almost topping out on the point of the ridge I came to call Hiker’s Perch, when I came face to face with this Yucca plant on the uphill slope above the trail.

The many species of Yucca are favorites on my plant list. This one is the Banana yucca, so named because of its banana shaped fruit pods that appear early every summer. Its green-blue blades are strong, with needle sharp points. You don’t blunder up against one more than once, unless you enjoy punctures in your legs. Their blades spread out at various vertical angles, and growing from a common base this form serves to direct rainwater and snowmelt toward the plant’s roots. Pretty clever.

What especially captivated me about this particular individual was the bright but soft high desert light on it, there in the shade of a big manzanita bush. The tough, sinewy fibers curled off the blades in enticing swirls. I made several exposures before continuing on.

Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness, Coconino National Forest, Arizona.

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