The Mysteries of the Blue Beaks

Sometime in January of 2011, thousands of birds literally dropped dead from the sky.  

In Italy, approximately 8,000 turtle doves died and they mysteriously had a blue stain on their beaks.

Scientists attributed the cause of mass death, as well as the unusual blue beaks to either hypoxia (lack of oxygen) or overfeeding on sunflower seeds.  Results of the investigations were inconclusive.  I don't think it is a case of mass suicide like what lemmings do.  As my colleagues and I would say: This event, for all legal intents and purposes, remains a mystery.

I came across this mystery while researching about another blue beak which turned out to be a mystery as well.

This is the mystery of the origin of the name of the Blue Beaked Yucca or the Yucca rostrata.  

Why is it mysterious?  Almost all websites and even published references say that its species name 'rostrata' is because of this particular yucca's fruit which allegedly resembles the beak of a bird.  I was curious to see this fruit for myself.  Unfortunately my specimen is too young to produce fruits.  I turned to the internet.  However, a web search yielded negative results for a picture of this beak-looking fruit.  My curiosity was piqued.  Even various combinations of search terms didn't yield anything.  I'm almost beginning to doubt the existence of the fruit of Y. rostrata.

The yucca is a beautiful and hardy plant, very much sought after for xeriscapes.  Its leaves are greenish-blue in color hence the "blue" in its common name.  

The Y. rostrata is known to yield lovely white blooms.  Just like the elusive fruit, I have yet to see these in person.  The pictures on the internet look spectacular.

My Y. rostrata specimens are potted.  They receive full sun to maintain the bluish color of the leaves and are watered whenever the potting medium dries completely. I feed them with slow release general purpose fertilizer every quarter.  Fortunately, these measures are sufficient to keep my Yucca rostrata's from dropping dead like the turtle doves.

What really caused the blue beaks of the dead birds?  Where can I find a picture of the beak-looking fruit of the bluish-leafed Y. rostrata?  Until and unless I find definitive answers, both cases remain open.



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This post is also my entry to the new meme of Donna of Garden Walk, Garden Talk and Green Apples blogs.  Her new meme is Words for Wednesday and today's word is repose.

According to, among other definitions, repose may mean:

Archaic to depend or rely on a person or thing:
I repose on the internet to provide me with pictures of the Y. rostrata fruit.
From flickr by Philipbradley. Used through Creative Commons: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
to lie dead:  
The bodies of the birds repose on the ground.
peace, tranquility:
I feel repose when I care for my plants, like the Yucca rostrata.







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