Yucca torreyi is a large broad-leaved arborescent Yucca from the Chihuahuan Desert with a range that includes southern New Mexico, the Trans-Pecos region of southwest Texas and the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila in Mexico. It grows at elevations from 600 to 1500m above sea level in an area that is characterised by cold winter temperatures and hot, very dry summers. It develops a tall trunk, either singly or occasionally multiple-stemmed and sometimes branched and has sword-like upright pointing leaves that can extend out beyond the trunk as much as 1.4m. The leaves are somewhat fleshy yet rigid with a distinctive maroon margin when juvenile and developing a sharp terminal point and filifers along the up-curled margin with age.
There is some considerable taxonomic confusion over Yucca torreyi. Some consider it to be a synonym of Yucca faxoniana, a name also considered legitimate for Yucca carnerosana. We grow both Yucca carnerosana and Yucca torreyi here at the nursery and the differences are clearly visible. There are certainly some similarities: they are both arborescent and extremely fast-growing with broad upright leaves. Our Yucca carnerosana however has leaves that are thinner, more erect and stiffer and the margins are white with the filaments developing and separating from the leaf margins at an earlier age. By contrast, Yucca torreyi has fleshier broader leaves that are less regular and less upright and with a glaucous powdery bloom and reddish-maroon margin and a more curved cross-section. To add to the confusion Yucca torreyi has also been considered by some to be a synonym of Yucca treculeana although the various descriptions for these taxa are themselves somewhat conflicting. There may be some substance to this merged classification with the regional and local differences within the Chihuahuan Desert a predominant factor. However, until more conclusive biochemical and cytogenetic studies have been done, it seems to me more useful to have more distinctions in the Yucca populations rather than less.
Agave torreyi is a great Yucca for the UK. It is fast growing and its broad leaves give it a distinctive look, particularly when young. It is a tough plant, capable of surviving extremes of hot and cold. It is hardy down to about -15C but like all the desert Yuccas it should be kept as dry as possible during the winter. Giving it impeccable drainage with a substrate of gravel and sand to which has been added rough limestone chippings is the best way to reproduce the free-draining alkaline soil in which it grows in the Chihuahuan Desert. The less moisture-retaining organic soil it has the better !
These are big strong fast-growing specimens! Massive size! Large and spiky! A bargain!
|Synonyms||Yucca faxoniana, Yucca treculeana, Yucca baccata var. macrocarpa, Yucca crassifolia, Yucca macrocarpa, Yucca torreyi f. parviflor, Sarcoyucca macrocarpa|
|Geographical Origin||Chihuahuan Desert : New Mexico and Texas in the USA; Chihuahua and Coahuila in Mexico|
|Cultivation||Full sun, warm sheltered aspect. Perfect drainage and an alkaline substrate|
|Eventual Height||In the wild it can reach 8m; in the UK 4m would be more realistic and already a very old plant|
|Hardiness||Hardy to -15C but must be kept dry to achieve this. Good drainage is essential. Protection to keep it dry during the winter is a sensible precaution|
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