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Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 19 October 2001

Yucca filamentosa is native to dry, sandy areas on the East Coast, though it looks like something that belongs in the Southwest. Here in Townsend it's farther north than the original New Jersey limit to its range, but still quite hardy. The stiff, 30-inch-long, sword-shaped leaves emerge from a central point near the ground, with virtually no stem. They're a dark green, with curly white threads sprouting from the edges. The flower stalks rise above the leaves, to a total of six feet or more, with bunches of nodding, bell-shaped flowers, 2 inches long, white tinged green or cream. The plant is a visual attention-getter, and used to be quite popular for its strong "architectural" presence.

However, it's not to my taste, and I'm trying to get rid of one. I thought I dug it up three years ago, but new shoots keep growing from a root I must have missed.

I dig down alongside one shoot, tracing down its root to see where it comes from — carefully: because although it's as thick as my thumb, it’s soft and brittle; and I don’t want to leave any more pieces behind! Luckily there aren't a lot of roots, just the one. I use a soil scoop, a tool ideally suited for digging in small spaces: its pointed tip and serrated edges break through clods and remove stones easily, and its deep, curved bowl brings up the dirt without straining the wrist.

Almost two feet down, the scoop rubs on something not soil or stone. This could be what I'm looking for. Digging more, I see that it's indeed a larger root, horizontal, that meets the vertical root from the plant. Are they connected, or just passing each other? I scoop more, and finally get the tip of a narrow transplanting shovel under the big root.

I lift gently, just to budge it. Yes! the two roots move as a unit. I have found the source. But I have also spent all the time and strength I have for today. So I pull and break off the exposed horizontal root, and put it along with its offshoot in the trash. (I’m not going to give that a chance to grow in the compost pile!)

I leave the hole open, so I can see the fat source root where it continues on each side. I still want to dig up the whole thing.

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark