If you have been to the park lately you might have noticed these beautiful plants blooming. Its scientific name is Hesperoyucca whipplei but it also goes by chaparral yucca, Quixote yucca, foothill yucca, Spanish dagger, and even Our Lords Candle (because of the beautiful glow when the sunlight was directly behind the blossoming plant). One special trait of Yucca plants is their symbiotic relationship with Yucca Moths.
After the yucca’s bloom nearby Yucca Moths will emerge from their subterranean cocoons. It is said that the fragrance of the yucca blossom that awakens them. After emerging the male and female moths will mate inside the blossoms usually at night. The lifespan of the moths are so short they don’t even eat! In fact, after mating the males work is over but the females work is just beginning.
The female moths will travel to the yucca flowers collecting pollen into a lump with their specialized tentacle-like mouthparts. The moth then travels to a different yucca plant ensuring it is at the right stage and not occupied by any other creatures. When the yucca moth finds a flower that is suitable she will lay her eggs directly in the plant’s ovary.
Here is where the symbiotic relationship is really apparent. The yucca moth goes to the flower’s stigma and deposits the pollen from under her chin. This extra step ensures that the Yucca plant will produce fruit and seed providing the larvae with plenty of food. No other creature takes this extra step. A few weeks later, when the larvae are fully grown having eaten the fruit and seed it will wiggle to the ground and make its cocoon. The Yucca plant will then die back leaving their stalks. And the new yucca moths can wait over a year for the next season the Yucca blooms.