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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Norma and Bill Wilson are growing a Spanish bayonet

  • Some people have “Beware of Dog” signs in their yard. Norma and Bill Wilson might want to consider putting a “Beware of Plant” on their property.

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  • Some people have “Beware of Dog” signs in their yard. Norma and Bill Wilson might want to consider putting a “Beware of Plant” on their property.
    They have a Spanish bayonet, a form of yucca plant, growing in their backyard, though for years they were under the impression that it was a century plant. That’s what Mrs. Wilson’s friend told her it was.
    “The leaves are very sharp and she got tired of having them scratch her legs when she went around the yard,” Mrs. Wilson said. “She brought it over to us, and we stuck it in the yard and forgot about it.”
    That was about 15 years ago, and in all that time the plant has not bloomed. However, it’s a characteristic of agave americana or American aloe, commonly known as the century plant, that it goes many years without blooming, then dies after it does.
    “We came home Sunday after church and I looked at the plant and said, ‘Bill, I think it’s blooming’,” Mrs. Wilson said.
    Excited, she later contacted Jacob Weber, Extension horticulturist, and he was excited, too. However, they were both disappointed when Weber  concluded that it was not a century plant.
    “The leaves of agave americana are wide and typically very large, three to 3 1/2 feet long and they flop over,” Weber said. “It’s some kind of yucca, but not the yucca you typically see growing in ditches.”
    In fact, he had to do some digging before he found out just what kind of yucca Mrs. Wilson had. Weber first thought it was a yucca glauca, but backed off on that and did more research and found the mystery plant’s true identity.
    The truth is actually quite interesting. While some other yucca plants are common here, the Spanish bayonet is not often seen in Kansas. Native to coastal areas, including sand dunes and shorelines, it is more common in the southern United States. However, the plant is tremendously hardy, can withstand heat and cold, likes sun but can take some shade and doesn’t need much water or fertilizer.
    Attractive and low maintenance, it would seem to be an idea garden plant, except for those leaves.
    “It has very sharp needles,” Weber said. “I found that out personally when I touched one of them. This is a very onery plant, and you don’t want to plant it where anybody is likely to  run into it.”
    Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, warned about the sharp leaves, have given it  plenty of space.
    Weber said that the Spanish bayonet does have one definite use.
    “It’s a good barrier plant,” he said. “You want to plant this outside your bedroom window, or any place where you don’t want somebody getting in.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Part of the plant’s mystery remains.  Weber doesn’t know why the Wilsons’ plant hasn’t bloomed before, or why it decided to do so now, since yuccas generally wouldn’t bloom this late in the year.
    “Something must have triggered it, but I don’t know what,” Weber said.
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