Exploding yucca was hot stuff in bedroom

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The Independent Online
"EXPLODING YUCCA burnt my bedroom" might sound like the wild excesses of a fevered tabloid newspaper, but in Northumberland a woman was forced to call the fire brigade after her ornamental plant spontaneously combusted.

When Carol Westgarth, of Blyth, returned from a holiday in Spain she retired to bed without a thought for her unwatered plants. But for her bedroom yucca, the strain had proved much, and the dryness of its peat soil led to a bizarre combination of conditions that caused it to explode. Mrs Westgarth woke to find her bedroom ablaze and clouded with choking smoke. "The firemen said it must have spontaneously combusted," she said. "It was really quite scary."

Karen Jones, of the Royal Botanic Gardens, at Kew, west London, said the spontaneous combustion could have been caused by bacteria in the peat. "What probably happened is that the peat had decomposed and was giving off heat, and with the peat being dry it could have created enough heat to cause spontaneous combustion."