“Age cannot wither her,” Shakespeare said of Cleopatra. Don’t tell that to the yuccas dotted over Southern California’s mountains.
Wither is what they do — and they do it spectacularly — after the briefest moment of gracefulness.
As usual at this season they are beautifying the dark green and brown hillsides with their delicate flowers of startling white and pale green and in greater profusion than I can ever remember. Even now their allure is best appreciated at a respectful distance, however.
These are tough characters, like everything else in an environment marked by extreme heat, prolonged drought, occasional fierce storms and animals willing to eat anything halfway palatable. The trunk is like iron, even the fresh branches are too hard to gnaw, and they are protected by vicious spiky leaves that draw blood if touched.
Soon they will be shedding their leaves and instead of looking like hopeful debutantes they will become old crones, brown, decayed and charmless. It’s a dreadful lesson in aging. I guess we should be grateful that, in humans, growing old is at least spread over decades. The photo shows what a year can do to a pretty young yucca.
Reg Green’s website is nicholasgreen.org.