There are over 40 species of yucca but only one native to the Conejo Valley: the Chaparral Yucca. Yucca is a short, round bush with long leaves that have sharp tips. These sharp tips gave it the nickname, “Spanish Bayonet.”  In the spring, it grows one tall branch with bunches of white flowers that look like they glow in the moonlight giving them the nickname, “Lord’s Candle.” Naturalists sometimes refer to this plant as "nature’s hardware store" because of all of the ways it can be used. Whatever name you decide is best for this plant, one thing is for sure, the chaparral yucca is an extraordinary plant and this week's newsletter will explore some of its fascinating characteristics. 
Response to Fire
These are not pineapples, they’re two yucca plants spotted along a trail shortly after the Woolsey Fire.  When a plant is burned like this and still manages to have some top growth, the regrowth of the entire plant is probable.  In fact, it has been observed that sprouts of leaves can begin growing back within two weeks.  
Yucca Moth
An interesting fact about yucca is that it is dependent upon a small moth for pollination. In turn, the moth is dependent upon the yucca to nourish its larva. Neither the yucca nor its partner moth can adapt and survive in the absence of the other.  Although there are many kinds of yucca and many species of moth, there is only one species of moth that pollinates the chaparral yucca.  
"The relationship between the yucca moth and the yucca plant is a classic example of symbiosis. The California Yucca Moth (Tegeticula maculate) is the one that interacts with Yucca whipplei. The larvae feed only in yucca fruits that only develop from moth-pollinated flowers. The female flies to a flower at night, rolls a ball of pollen bigger than her head and then carries it in her mouth to another flower where she makes a hole in the pistil, deposits her eggs and then places the ball of pollen on top of the pistil. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars eat a few seeds, make a hole in the pod, come out, spin a thread to lower themselves to the ground where they bury themselves, then emerge in about a year as moths."
Historical Uses 
In this video, Christopher Nyerges talks about the many uses of the yucca plant. There is a chapter on Yucca in Christopher's "Foraging California" book and the "Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants" book. The valuable yucca provides 4 foods, and fiber for sandals, rope, brushes, sandals, mats, and more.  He also teaches classes on survival and sustainability at SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com
Yucca Bracelets
A few years ago our family participated in a Free Yucca Bracelet Workshop hosted by Hupa Native Kat High at the Satwiwa Native American Culture Center in Newbury Park. The class is recommended for ages 7 year and up. It was a super fun experience to begin with a piece of yucca and go through all of the simple steps to make a chord bracelet that we still have today.  In-person classes are still on hold at the moment but be sure to follow Santa Monica Mountains on Facebook and/or Instagram to keep updated on future events, information, and classes.  

Book Recommendation
The Night Life of the Yucca is a poetic narrative which explains the process of symbiosis and pollination through a description of the relationship between the yucca plant and the yucca moth. 
Where in the Conejo Valley can you spot yucca? 
Yucca are most noticeable when they produce the long stalk of flowers.  Flower stalks can grow between 4 and 8 feet tall.  Flowers begin blooming April through July. 

One of the places I see them most often is off the 101, along the highway.  Yucca prefers to be in full sunshine and in rocky soil so any trail that is in full sun will probably have yucca.  My family's favorite two trails that have beautiful yucca plants (and views) year after year are: 

1. Tarantula Hill

2. Vista Del Mar Trail 

(click on the links above for more information)
The Conejo Open Space Challenge
The Conejo Open Space Challenge is the event that sparked my love and passion for hiking and nature around Conejo Valley.  The first year I completed it, I did it alone as a personal challenge to get me exercising.  The following year, I did it with friends.  The next year I did it with my high school daughter, which was incredible.  Each year it has been absolutely rewarding.  It allowed me to grow closer to who I was hiking with.  It introduced me to incredible views I did not know about.  It also kept me going outside and hiking consistently. 

The Conejo Open Space Challenge is simply a list of 10 hikes picked by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA).  The purpose is to introduce trails to people that they may or may not be acquainted with.  If you complete all ten trails in the way you enjoy exploring trails most (hiking, biking, or riding a horse) by May 31st, you will be entered to win prizes donated by some of our local businesses.  

For more information about this challenge or maps of the trails listed, click on the picture below or visit: 
To read earlier issues of the Conejo Valley Nature Club Newsletter visit: 
If you would like this information in a format you can distribute to your class, let's chat! Email Christina at naturekidsactivities@gmail.com
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