Monday, February 13, 2012

Spanish Dagger

Spring comes early in the Valley, and we started seeing the first signs of it as early as Mid-January as the numerous Spanish Daggers began to put up their showy blooms. Spanish Dagger is a large (up to 25' tall) member of the yucca family, and is seen throughout the refuge system here in South Texas. It is well named for its stiff, very sharp leaves which are capable of going right through the heaviest blue jeans. Just ask how we know!!

The bloom begins as a large burgundy and white bud that elevates itself above the leaves.

The bud slowly opens to reveal hundreds of creamy white flowers in a dense cluster high above the plant.

The flowers are harvested and eaten as a delicacy in Mexico, but here on the refuge the consumers are birds, insects, and other critters. Like other yuccas, the Spanish Dagger is pollinated by a small moth. A fertilized female moth visits one yucca to collect pollen and then flies to another to lay her eggs on that plant's ovary, depositing some of her pollen in the process. The yuccas are fertilized in the process and the moth larvae have a food source in the developing seeds. Isn't nature interesting??

During our bird surveys we have noticed that Spanish Dagger serves as a popular perch for birds. In the coastal prairies this yucca is often the tallest perch available. Among the birds we have seen are Crested Caracara, Loggerhead Shrikes, White-tailed Hawks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, and even the endangered Aplomado Falcon.

Crested Caracara

Loggerhead Shrike

White-tailed Hawk

Eastern Meadowlark

Red-winged Blackbird

Aplamado Falcon



  1. Have not found any yucca's in Louisiana yet but there are lots of camellias and azaleas blooming here now. I guess it's early but it's been a warm winter for them.

  2. Hi Judy - We have a lot of these beautiful Carcara's here at the refuge!

    Penny - It sounds like you are in a very pretty place if you have camellias and azaleas blooming.


  3. I guess birds have to be pretty smart to learn how to land on those pointy (and heavy!) leaves w/out spearing themselves! I can only imagine how you know the leaves go right through blue jeans. Ouch!

  4. They go right through a ball cap as well. Hurts...