“Adam’s Needle” is the common moniker for this native southern plant that has been naturalized in the northeast by gardeners. Yucca filamentosa scratches a lot of horticultural itches (almost literally). This trunk-less evergreen shrub produces a rosette of blue-green leaves that form an architectural mass of lovely weirdness. The leaves peel apart into threads, or filaments, thus the species name.
This plant is beyond tough, taking poor soils, drought, compaction, salt, and shade with nary a complaint. For these reasons it is being used extensively in Brooklyn Green Street plantings. Yucca filamentosa blooms in mid-summer, sending up a 5 to 8 foot stalk of slightly fragrant white blooms.
Unlike many other types of Yucca, which boast leaves so stiff and sharp they could impale a lumberjack, Yucca filamentosa has rather flaccid leaves, but can still poke and cut a bit. There are some very pretty cultivars, such as the popular “Color Guard.” This variety sports an electric yellow center with green margins, and sometimes adds a few pinks into the mix in cold winter weather. They look amazing when mass planted and would work well in Riverside Park on the drive.