Ken Leighton 12:30 p.m., Oct. 21
Yuccas, Orchid Trees, and Citrus Blossoms
Yuccas of two varieties are in bloom in San Diego County from now through May. Year after year, the Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera) sends up a blunt flower stalk of white, waxy blossoms from the same base -- a rosette of dagger-like leaves. The shimmering white exclamation point that unfolds above "Our Lord's Candle" (Yucca whipplei), on the other hand, is a prelude to the plant's imminent death. Mojave yucca is widely distributed along San Diego County's coastal strip and throughout the higher elevations of the Anza-Borrego Desert. Our Lord's Candle prefers the scrubby coastal foothills and the drier slopes of the Palomar, Cuyamaca, and Laguna mountains. The two yuccas coexist with each other in a few areas like Torrey Pines State Reserve and Anza-Borrego's Culp Valley area.
Orchid Trees, now at their flamboyant best in front yards and public spaces throughout the city, are showing off their large, orchid-like flowers in shades of pink, purple, and maroon. Orchid trees thrive in areas with a mild winter climate, hence their popularity in Hawaii, Southern California, and Arizona.
The Sticky-Sweet Odor of citrus blossoms is wafting on the spring breezes this year, as it has in every year since the 1870s, when the county's first commercially planted orange and lemon groves began to produce fruit. From early plantings in areas like National City and Lemon Grove, citrus groves spread east and north as urbanization encroached. Today, a car or bicycle trip through Rancho Santa Fe, Pauma Valley, and the outskirts of Escondido, Vista, and Fallbrook induces a pleasant reminiscence of San Diego County's agricultural past.