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WAYNE"S word Volume 9 (Number 2) Summer 2000
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The Yucca and Its MothPollination the That depends On A little Moth amendment From: Zoonooz Volume 72 (4): 28-31. April 1999 by Original author W. P. Armstrong.The genus Yucca is one of the most remarkable teams of flowering plants native to the brand-new World. The includes around 40 species, most of which occur in the southwestern unified States and also Mexico. Although they space often associated with arid desert regions, some types are aboriginal to the southeastern united States and the Caribbean islands. What important sets this genus apart from other flowering tree is your unique method of pollination: A specific moth the is gene programmed for stuffing a small ball the pollen into the cup-shaped stigma of every flower. Favor fig wasps and also acacia ants, the connection is mutually helpful to both partners, and also is critical for the survive of both plant and also insect. In fact, yuccas grew in the Old World, whereby yucca moths room absent, will not produce seeds unless they room hand pollinated.

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Chaparral yucca (Yucca whipplei) top top a far ridge in the rugged mountain Gabriel mountains of southerly California.
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Blossom of chaparral yucca (Yucca whipplei) mirroring a male and a female yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata).Depending on the authority, yuccas space usually inserted in the lily household (Liliaceae) or the agave family members (Agavaceae). The surname Yucca is acquired from "yuca," a Carib Indian surname for the cassava or tapioca plant (Manihot esculenta) of the euphorbia household (Euphorbiaceae). Yucca is also the creole word because that cassava. "Yuca" is no to be perplexed with the lover yellow-flowered morning glory (Merremia aurea) the the Cape an ar of Baja California. Apparently the connection with starchy cassava root is that yucca buds and also young flower stalks that are likewise roasted for food. Yuccas are trunkless shrubs v rosettes of stiff, sword-shaped leaves occurring at floor level, or tree-like with distinct trunks and also limbs. Examples of the rosette forms include Spanish bayonet (Y. Baccata) and also chaparral yucca (Y. Whipplei). Tree-like forms encompass the Joshua tree (Y. Brevifolia) the the California and Arizona desert region, and also tree yucca or "datillo" (Y. Vallida) endemic to southern Baja California.
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A stately Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) in the northern Mojave Desert of san Bernardino County, California.
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Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera), a native types in coastal and desert locations of san Diego County. Unlike the chaparral yucca (Y. Whipplei), the produces a compact flower cluster, a distinct basal tribe on old specimens, and leaves through conspicuous marginal fibers. Return its selection overlaps that of Y. Whipplei, it calls for a different species of yucca moth (Tegeticula yuccasella).See more Photographs that Yucca PlantsYuca (Merremia aurea) in Baja CaliforniaYucca pipeline contain majority of elongate fiber cells which can easily be pulled the end of the leaf blade prefer strands the thread. The strong leaf yarn are supplied for cordage and also rope. Bleached, sun-dried yucca pipeline from the Arizona varieties Y. Elata are offered for white coils in Papago Indian baskets. Greenish-yellow design come indigenous unbleached yucca leaves, when red trends are produced by a natural dye from yucca roots. The black color designs come native the long, curved pods of Proboscidea parviflora ssp. Parviflora, much better known as devil"s claws or unicorn plants.
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Yucca elata in southeastern Arizona. The dried leaves of this species are supplied in Indian basketry.Photos of Papago Yucca BasketsSee Article around Devil"s ClawsCreamy white flower are developed in huge erect flower clusters (panicles) during late spring and summer. In the Mexican types (Y. Filifera), the panicles are up to six feet long and also are pendent fairly than erect. Individual yucca flowers have six fleshy petaloid segment which are called tepals by part botanists because the petals and also sepals are indistinguishable. The pistil of every flower terminates in a three-lobed stigma, the lobes in some types with glistening, feather branches. The stigma lobes surround a main orifice the leads to a recessed receptive stigma. In order because that pollination to occur, masses of pollen should be required down into this main stigmatic depression. Herein lies the adaptive advantage and marvelous genetic programming of a small moth the is absolutely vital for the survival and also perpetuation of yucca plants.
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Stigma lobes and central stigmatic orifice that the Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera). The female yucca moth (Tegeticula yuccasella) forces a little mass that pollen down right into the orifice so the it makes call with the recessed receptive area, for this reason pollinating the plant.
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Feathery stigma lobes and main stigmatic depression the the chaparral yucca (Yucca whipplei). The female yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata) presses a pollen mass into the central stigmatic orifice, therefore pollinating the plant and also insuring seed production and also food for her larva.Several species of Yucca are cultivated in southerly California, consisting of the Baja California endemic Y. Vallida, the Mojave Desert yucca (Y. Schidigera), and also the chaparral yucca (Y. Whipplei). The latter types grows wild transparent the coastal mountains of southerly California, decorating the chaparral every spring v huge, candle-like flower swarm that may reach 12 feet. In their aboriginal habitats, all these yucca species require pollination by a woman moth of the genus Tegeticula (Pronuba). Because that example, the pollinator the Mojave yucca (Y. Schidigera) in the Mojave Desert and also Y. Filamentosa in Missouri is a white moth named T. Yuccasella, while the pollinator that joshua trees (Y. Brevifolia) is a dark gray moth called T. Paradoxa. According to J. Powell and R. Mackie (University the California publications in Entomology Volume 42, 1966), yucca moths space not all host specific because T. Yuccasella was built up from 19 different types of Yucca.The moth that pollinates Yucca whipplei in the chaparral of mountain Diego county is Tegeticula maculata. Details of yucca pollination in mountain Diego ar are explained in a fascinating write-up by George Cox (Environment Southwest No. 493, 1981). Our regional female yucca moth is a tiny black moth about 8-10 mm long. In the Transverse variety of Los Angeles and also San Bernardino Counties and northward this moth is white v black specks. The chaparral yucca moth is basic to point out in mountain Diego County amongst all the moths that arise if you shake a flower stalk throughout the feather months. Some of these various other moths include a smaller, whitish varieties in the genus Prodoxus that resides on the yucca plant but does not pollinate the flowers. In fact, Y. Whipplei has three varieties of these non-pollinator "bogus yucca moths."
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A female yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata) in the upright pollination position on the pistil the Yucca whipplei. She pressures pollen down into the main stigmatic depression, hence pollinating the flower.Each spring, male and female yucca moths emerge from their subterranean cocoons. Lock crawl come the surface and fly to surrounding yucca plants. Throughout this moth development period, male and also female moths may be rendezvous through each other and also mate. At this time the yucca plants have occurred erect flower stalks and also the flowers open one-by-one right into a magnificent inflorescence. In ~ maturity, yucca pollen grains adhere into sticky masses called pollinia, 2 inside each chamber the the anther. Unlike most other flower plants, the pollen is not spread as separation, personal, instance grains. The gravid (pregnant) mrs yucca moth collects approximately a dozen pollinia in ~ the yucca flower and forms them right into a gold mass. She provides a pair the long, curved, prehensile appendages in the mouth an ar (called maxillary palpi) to collect, form and lug the pollen ball. Male yucca moths (and most other moth species) perform not have these substantially enlarged, specially adapted palpi.
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Close-up see of the head the a mrs yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata) mirroring the prominent, coiled, maxillary palpi. She provides her prehensile palpi to collect, compact and carry a pollen sphere (pollinium). These enlarged, specially adjusted palpi are lacking in the male yucca moth.
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Several pollinia (pollen masses) and also a stamen native the flower of chaparral yucca (Yucca whipplei). The 2 anther bag at the top of the special stalk contain tiny pollen masses referred to as pollinia (2 within each anther sac). The woman yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata) collects approximately a dozen pollinia and forms them right into a gold ball that pollen.More Photographs the Yucca Moths & Yucca WeevilAt this point the woman is ready for egg laying. It is presumed the the moths paris to an additional plant, together in the well-documented habits of one more yucca moth Tegeticula yuccasella. The female moth crawls into a flower and also positions it s her on the next of the ovary, head outward, and inserts she egg-laying device (called an ovipositor) right into the ovary wall near the partition between surrounding ovary part (carpels). The ovary wall surface is thinnest close to the partition between carpels. A single, slender egg is placed into the ovule chamber (locule). Now she is prepared for pollination--the critical event that allows the perpetuation of every yuccas in the wild.
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Close-up see of the abdomen that a female yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata) mirroring the slender ovipositor supplied to insert an egg right into the ovary that a Yucca whipplei flower.After inserting her egg right into the flower ovary, the female moth (still transporting a pollen massive in her coiled palpi) climbs come the height of the ovary. Uncoiling she palpi native the pollen mass, she color etc them back and forth end the stigma, pressing pollen into the main stigmatic depression. This insures pollination of the flower in i beg your pardon she has deposited one egg. Germinating pollen seed send numerous sperm-bearing pollen tubes into the ovary, bring about the fertilization of thousands of ovules (immature seeds) inside, few of which administer food for the hungry moth larva.
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Cross ar of the ripened ovary of Yucca whipplei reflecting 6 columns the flattened black seeds (2 columns per carpel).The yucca moth larva hatches inside the green occurring ovary the the flower throughout late spring and summer and also begins to feed on the maturing seeds. It stays inside the ovary (seed capsule) with the summer and also fall, high on a branch that the flower stalk. The seed capsule is created of three sections or carpels, each through two columns that seeds. In ~ maturity throughout the fall, up to 38 flattened black seeds lied in tightly pack tiers within each column, the same, similar thing coins stacked in a dispenser. In the column containing the moth larva, six to 14 the the seeds in the lower part of the tier are fastened in addition to silk, and a robust, pinkish larva occupies a cylindrical feeding cavity within this joined seeds. Follow to Powell and also Mackie (1966), yucca capsules may be lived in by more than one larva, but the median number is commonly one or two. Back the larva is a seed predator, it only consumes a small percentage that the hundreds of seeds within the capsule. Due to the fact that the larva establishes into a moth the pollinates the yucca plant, the partnership is plainly beneficial to both partners. Through comparison, the relationship in between the mexico jumping bean (Sebastiana pavoniana) and its symbiotic moth (Laspeyresia saltitans) is clearly one-sided. The moth is a particle predator but plays no function in the pollination the its organize shrub.See The WAYNE"S native Jumping bean Article
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Longitudinal section of the seeds capsule that Yucca whipplei in October reflecting the larva that a yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata) within its feeding cavity in among the particle chambers.See Close-Up check out Of Larva within Joined Seeds
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Cross ar of the particle capsule the Yucca whipplei in October reflecting the durable larva of a yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata).By late fall, dark brown yucca seed capsules split open between the seams of the carpels, releasing thousands of black seeds. The pinkish moth larva remains inside its little feeding cavity the fused seeds within the capsule till the first autumn rains. Climate it increase from the capsule and also drops come the ground. Part authors report the the larva lowers chin on a strand the silk, yet I have actually never observed this ~ above Yucca whipplei. Upon reaching the soil the larva burrows right into the soil and constructs a silken cocoon covered with seed of sand. The cocoon might be spherical or elongate, about 6-8 millimeters long. The larva continues to be in the cocoon throughout the winter months till spring rains and also warming temperature presumably wake up pupation and the emergence of one adult moth. Cocoons it was observed in captivity did no contain a pupa until shortly before the appearance of a moth in spring. It is imperative the the adult moths emerge when yucca plants are once again in bloom so that this remarkable cycle in between a moth and a plant can be renewed.
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The sand-covered, silken cocoon that the chaparral yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata). The preputial larva continues to be inside this subterranean cocoon throughout the winter months. In spring, once yucca tree are when again in your blooming cycle, the larva experience pupation and soon one adult moth increase from the ground.As winter ideologies in san Diego County, chaparral yuccas release their seeds as the basal rosettes of pipeline die and also turn gray. This marks the perfect of a life bike that began with a small black particle at the very least six or 7 years earlier. The following spring new yuccas will certainly sprout indigenous seeds, and also a constant succession the beautiful yucca flower stalks will appear as long as there space undeveloped locations of organic vegetation and also yucca moths come pollinate the flowers.

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A dead, basal leaf rosette and also flower stalk of chaparral yucca (Yucca whipplei) in ~ the finish of that is life cycle. This species takes at least 6 or 7 years to bloom and then it dies.
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