Saturday, August 8, 2009

Is That a Yucca Tree?

A lot of Metro Manila residents might tell you they have yucca in their backyards. But with all probability, only less than half of these do really have a real yucca. The rest probably have this plant in their homes and thought that it is a yucca. It's close, but no money!

I have long wondered about the identity of this plant, as I have encountered a few similar looking plants on the internet. The first suspect was Cordyline australis, as it was labeled on the Domingo Madulid book Pictorial Cyclopedia of Philippine Ornamental Plants. But I was corrected by Ray Ong (Philippine Star Philippine Gardens editor) that Cordyline specimens have stems or petioles on the base of the leaves where they meet the branches. This plant does not have it therefore it is not a Cordyline.

Speculation no. 2 was the genus Yucca. But then an old friend once told me that Yucca leaves are angled acute from the stem, thus pointing upward. The suspected plant occasionally have downward pointing leaves, thus it could not be a Yucca.

My third speculation was Dracaena draco, which internet photos are very similar to the plant in question. But Dracaena draco is said to be rare and raised only by collectors. The common plant can't possibly the very sought after dragon tree.

Then in February 2008, before an impending Popototan Island trip, Pinky Gendrano excitedly described to me what to expect from the beautiful Coron landscape. She described the limestone cliffs laced with yucca trees, which again baffled me. I knew that Yuccas are American natives. It is therefore unlikely that a Yucca would grow native in the cliffs of Coron and Busuanga. But when the trip came, I first handedly saw them growing there.

Light was shed on the matter by Ray Ong, giving me the exact identity of the so called Coron 'Yuccas'. The plant is indeed a Dracaena, D. multiflora. They are coastal species occuring in Southeast Asian countries. In the Philippines they occur in islands like Coron, Mindoro, Palawan, Masbate etc. In some case they are interspersed with similar looking coastal Pandanus species on steep limestone cliffs and outcrops.

In the 1970's, the native plant found its way into the Philippine commercial landscape scene. The late Ely Bardenas brought back specimens from Mindoro to be cultivated in Manila as an ornamental. To these we could trace most of the false 'Yuccas' we could see growing all over the metro.


Brokensaint said...

you know, it seems that i saw similar looking trees in boracay island, puka beach. myt be wrong, though

metscaper said...

You might be talking about pandanus trees. there area lot of them in boracay.

Barry said...

I think more likely that these are one of the multiple Dracaena species sold as ornamentals. Dracaena draco is not common, but there are quite a few others that are common in the nursery trade as indoor plants, and outdoor plants in warm subtropical and tropical regions. Try a Google image search for Dracaena arborea.

metscaper said...

thanks. they sure look the same.

another expert told me dracaena multiflora is a synonym to dracaena loureiri.

onehorsepower said...

would you know where to get a real yucca tree in metro manila

the amateur ear said...

I got a dracaena loureiri gagnep from plant sellers in Fairview, Quezon City.