Asparagaceae (asparagus family) Yucca

Yucca filifera tree yucca

Yucca filifera in front of the Anderson Collection. Sairus Patel, 9 May 2023
Yucca filifera in front of the Anderson Collection. Sairus Patel, 24 May 2018

A remarkable old yucca stands in front of the Anderson Collection, with a great swollen base and a substantial trunk, towering to a height of more than 40 feet (in 2023). It was saved during the construction of that building in 2013, and received the rare honor of its own sign in the process.

This specimen, declared the largest of its species in the country by the California Big Trees Registry in 2023, was transplanted ca. 1894 per Jane Stanford’s direction from the nearby Arizona Garden as part of the Stanford Museum’s landscape. In spring, gigantic clusters of white flowers form, which are very pretty in themselves if you can get close enough to see the individuals. These clusters are well over a yard long.

See two other ancient specimens of Yucca filifera, as well as Y. schottii, in the Arizona Garden, a collection of cacti and succulents designed and installed by Rudolph Ulrich in the early 1880s. Ulrich’s garden was adjacent to the site of a planned mansion for Leland and Jane Stanford. After their son died, the couple abandoned those plans, using the site instead for the family mausoleum.

Name derivation: Yucca – Haitian: yuca, or manihot, because young inflorescences sometimes roasted for food; filifera – (leaves) composed of or bearing thread-like structures.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. Anderson Collection note added, minor edits (Sep 2018, SP). National champion note added; edits (Oct 2023, SP).