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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 15, 2012

From: Arlington, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pollinators, Propagation, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Pollinator to Arkansas yucca from Arlington TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Thank you Barbara for your answer. However, my Arkansas yuccas bloom every year, but do not set seed. I am asking for the name of the moth that pollinates them, or other native plants that serve as hosts plants to that pollinator.

ANSWER:

Sorry, wish we could help you more. Here is an article from the U.S. Forest Service on the Tegeticula spp., which leads me to believe that is the only pollinator of the yucca. I have no idea if you have any in your area, but if you don't, you may be stuck. I tried searching on Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) first on the name "Tegeticula", which gave me no results and then on "yucca moth," which led me to this article on Prodoxus quinquepunctellus. Since this about uses up our knowledge on the subject, because we are Mr. Smarty Plants and not Mr. Moth, we suggest you go to the BAMONA website and do some research there. It looked to us like both of the moths we found should be in Central Texas, but have no proof of it. Ordinarily, specific moths are very dedicated to a specific plant; this is the case with the yucca moth. It has a special mouth formation to make it possible to pollinate the yucca flower. It seems unlikely that some other pollinator would be attracted to that flower, or be successful in pollinating the yucca if it were.

One other possibility occurs to us. Although Yucca arkansana (Arkansas yucca) is a genuine native plant and, according to this USDA Plant Profile map, is native to Tarrant County, there is something else to consider. Hybridized plants do not breed true, or sometimes even set seeds. There is always the possibility that your yucca is hybridized and was sold as an Arkansas yucca, in which case there is no point in hunting a moth.

 

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