RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Heralding spring in Deep South Texas, yuccas or pitas as they are known in Spanish, are in peak bloom throughout the wildlands, despite dry conditions this year.
While some are just starting to thrust their bloom spikes skyward, others are fully unfurling their creamy white flowers to the morning sun.
As they begin opening their petals, various hues of rich purple and reddish shades often appear, before the mature bloom glows a radiant white.
Yuccas flower in southernmost Texas from early January through March. In some years the bloom is sporadic, while in others they flower in magnificent unison, and a view from the air reveals their extensive beauty.
Yuccas are not only beautiful to behold, but they are also one of the most useful plants in the region and helped sustain indigenous people and early Spanish settlers.
The flowers are edible, the stalk is edible and the leaves can be used for making rope. The roots are an excellent source of soap. In the early 1900s, a Chicago company produced a popular soap using yucca root.
Yuccas also provide food and shelter for wildlife, and this chachalaca is enjoying a tasty snack of pita petals.
Many birds, such as the Aplomado falcon, build their nests within the protective spines of the Spanish dagger.
One of the best places to see blooming yuccas is Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge east of Rio Hondo, but just remember plants and animals at Laguna are protected for all to enjoy, so don’t pick a pita from the refuge.
It is a magical season in the South Texas wildlands, but the annual flowering of pitas is fleeting, so venture out and savor splendor while it lasts in the land of the yucca.