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The Mojave Yucca Essay

1275 words - 5 pages

The Mojave yucca, scientifically known as Yucca schidigera, is a tree shrub located in several rocky and dry locations, such as Arizona, California, the Mojave Desert, Nevada, and parts of Mexico. The Mojave yucca is a member of the fleshy-fruited, Sarcocarpa, section of the Agavaceae family. This plant species, also known as the Spanish dagger, has an intricate life cycle filled with numerous stages, from beginning as a seed that becomes germinated, to being pollinated by the yucca moth enabling reproduction, and having the ability to regenerate through sending out yucca rhizomes or sprouts. Overall, this plant species is immensely unique due to its mutualistic relationship with the yucca moths, current and past uses, phylogeny, and extraordinary longevity.
The Mojave yucca’s life cycle consists of various stages that allow it to transform from a seed or root into a magnificent tree with dagger-like leaves. This plant species begins as a seed, however seed production in a mature Mojave yucca is dependent upon the site conditions and the availability of its pollinator (USDA Forest Service, n.d.). In conjunction to seed production is pollination, where the female yucca moth, scientifically known as Tegeticula yuccasella, fertilizes the seeds of the plant (Armstrong, 2000). Once the seeds have been formed, germination then occurs, where they develop into seedlings, and begin to sprout under favorable conditions. However, most plants observed in their natural habitats have low germination rates, thus the seeds germinate “when moisture and temperature conditions are adequate” (USDA Forest Service, n.d.). The seedling grows roughly a quarter inch or one centimeter per year, during warm, but moist times of the year (USDA Forest Service, n.d.). After approximately thirty-five years, the Mojave yucca finally reaches maturity and gains the ability to flower and produce seeds (Clarke, 2013). One hundred years after that, it begins to reproduce without any flowers and seeds, while producing a bud that develops into a rosette of leaves (Clarke, 2013). Due to harsh climatic conditions, the seedling development in their natural habitat is extremely rare, and so the Mojave yucca reproduces most commonly through the production of rhizomes (Feller, n.d.). Therefore, the life cycle of a Mojave yucca is a slow process that is on-going throughout its elongated life.
Delving further into the reproductive system of the Spanish dagger, it is able to reproduce both sexually and asexually. First, sexual reproduction in this plant species is dependent upon the female yucca moth, the pollinator of the Mojave yucca, which forces the pollen into the stigma tubes (Armstrong, 2000). Next, they lay their eggs in the ovary, fertilizing the ovules, or the immature seeds (Armstrong, 2000). Then, the moth larvae hatch inside the developing ovary of the flower and begin to feed (Armstrong, 2000). As more moths are being created, more ovules are being fertilized; thus...

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