The Jumpin' Yuccy, or Schuss-Yucca
(Yucca Whipplei, var. Schuss)
In an October 1952 contribution to Scientific Monthly, the botanist Gustav Albrecht provided startling photographic proof (shown to the left) of the existence of a unique plant known as the Jumpin' Yuccy, or Schuss-yucca (its technical name). The remarkable attribute of this plant (which Albrecht described as "a rare variety of chaparral yucca") was that it grew ten to twenty feet straight up into the air, blossomed, and then died, all within "a manner of minutes or even seconds."
Albrecht explained that the name "Schuss-yucca" derived from the German word 'schuss,' meaning 'to shoot up.' But in the southwestern states of America where the plant grew indigenously, local residents referred to it as the "Jumpin' Yuccy."
According to Albrecht, the Schuss-yucca had first been scientifically described in 1893 by the German botanist Professor Ferdinand Grünspann in volumes 13 and 14 of his twenty-volume work, Handbuch der Yucca. Unfortunately, Grünspann's claims about the Schuss-yucca were ridiculed by rival botanists who believed his assertions to either be a species of delusion or hoax.
Albrecht noted that Grünspann's credibility had been undermined by the apparent credence he gave to various wild-eyed stories about the plant. For instance, Grünspann appeared to believe the legend about the "Spanish desperado and cattle rustler Vasquez" who was impaled as he leapt over a Jumpin' Yuccy just as it was beginning its growth cycle. Albrecht dismissed this legend by noting that the stem of the Jumpin' Yuccy is soft, "like a giant asparagus." Therefore, it "could not reasonably be expected to harm a full-grown Spaniard."
Professor Grünspann went to his grave stubbornly insisting on the veracity of his claims. "It is said that the professor's dying words were 'Es schiesst doch!'reminiscent of Galileo's famous remark some centuries earlier, 'Eppur si muove!'" But Grünspann was not vindicated until the 1952 publication of Albrecht's research.
Albrecht briefly described the method he used to record the Jumpin' Yuccy's rapid growth, blossoming, and death: "I used an automatic Rolleiflex, taking the photographs at one-second intervals, and although the exposures were only 1/100 of a second, there is little blurring of the fast-moving sprout. The amazement on the face of the model, who was somewhat dubious of the whole affair, is clearly evident."
Albrecht concluded his article by asserting his hope that scientists in 1952 would be less skeptical about the existence of the Jumpin' Yuccy than they were in Grünspann's day. Albrecht optimistically commented that, "Scientists today realize that anything is possible, whether Schuss-yuccas or extra-terrestrial flying saucersparticularly when reported by trained and reliable observers and accompanied by good photographs."