Joshua Tree, Joshua Tree National Park
The Cholla cactus could be taken for a Teddy Bear- it looks quite cuddley. Far from it ! Its thousands of needles will cause quite a lot of damage if you put out your hand to touch it or brush against one.
Like all the plant in the Park it is wonderfully adapted to the climatic and environmental conditions of its natural surroundings.
A most informative leaflet about the Cholla and other plants and animals in the Park can be collected for a small voluntary charge at the entrance to the Cholla Garden.
The Joshua Tree (Yucca Brevifolia) grows mostly in the Mojave Desert. It is a very specialized type of plam tree that has a wide ranging shallow root sytem that takes advantage of as much ground moisture as possible. Ancient indians used the fibers from the plant to make baskets sandals, and sleeping mats. Birds made nest from the fibers and hung them from the branches, or lived in holes the made in the trunks. Many types of animals eat the flowers, fruit and seeds produced by the plant. The Joshua Tree is a very intesresting example of how a plant can adapt to its environment.
This unusual looking tree was named by Mormon pioneers after the prophet Joshua because the branches of the tree reminded them of the prophet waving his arms to the people, toward the promised land. These trees are native only to Southwest USA. The Joshua Tree thrives in the higher and cooler Mojave Desert, at above 3000 ft. It comes from the family of yucca (Yucca Brevifolia) and it distinguishes itself by its height. It can grow as tall as 40 ft and it can live for 1000 years. I find them very picturesque looking but I have a friend who refused to take a picture because in her opinion "they are ugly" ;)
A Joshua Tree propagates both by pollination and by sending out long underground roots and sprouting new plants from those roots. In general pollination is better because they can spread over larger areas. The trees rely on the a specialized moth for pollination and no other insect or bird transfers the pollen from one flower to another. Without the moth's pollination, the Joshua Tree could not reproduce, nor could the moth, whose larvae eat the Joshua Tree seed. The white or greenish flowers can appear from March to May, but they require just the right combination of temperature and moisture, and several years may pass without a major blooming.
A must see in Joshua Park is, of course, the Joshua Tree. There are other pockets of Joshua Trees in other places in Southern California, but the National Park does have one of the largest concentrations.
This odd plant can grow 45 feet high and live for over 900 years.
They won't provide much shade in the scorching desert, but they do catch your eye. Look for them in the higher part of the Park.
Joshua trees often cannot support their own weight. When they grow too big they just fall apart and die. Joshua trees are most concentrated in Joshua Tree National Park. Here you'll see Joshua trees of all shapes and forms, and in different phases of their life cycle. The photo shows a dead Joshua found in Hidden Valley.
The first time I saw Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), I just thought they look so funny in a pathetic way. Its trunk is weak (made of numerous small fibers), roots shallow, and branches going in all directions. Worst of all, they often cannot support their own weight and fall all over the place. Hence its shape and form are so distinctive that when I see them in a movie I immediately know it's shot in the Park.
No matter how funny they look, they are able to sustain the harsh desert environment that other plants can't. And they are not even trees; they are a giant member of the lily family.
The photo shows a baby Joshua. It's about 5 feet tall and has not grown any branches yet. Enlarge the photo and you can clearly tell its trunk is made of nothing but dead, unattached fibers. Not sure in a few years, if this baby will grow up to a 40-feet tall giant, or just bowing all over the place.
From far away, Joshua Tree NP seems unwelcoming and forbidding, especially during a hot summer day. Like in any other national park you have a choice of many trails to walk, view points to look out from and plants, trees and animals to spot.
This mystical landscape however is best appreciated at sunrise or sunset when the warm colours of the sun merge with the red ground.
Did you know that the Joshua tree is part of the agave family and can grow up to heights of forty feet? It is also what they call an indicator plant of the Mojave Desert--meaning that if you see a Joshua Tree, you are probably in the Mojave Desert.
For a different perspective of Joshua Tree, spend a day or two along the isolated eastern
crescent of the park, which is accessible from Blyte to the east and the Palm Spring area to the west along I-10. This is the Colorado Desert portion of Joshua Tree, the
so-called low desert, which is typically milder
and drier than the Mojave high desert.
Joshua trees are found throughout the Mojave desert but they tend to be solitary plants elsewhere. Joshua park is unusual for its "forests" of Joshua trees.