Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

The Joshua Tree was named for the biblical character by the Mormon Setters as they crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid 19th century.  It is told that the tree reminded the early Mormon’s of Joshua who, much like the tree, held his hands up in prayer.  From these humble beginnings, the Joshua Tree and their undulating shadows have become of an icon of the desert southwest.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

Natural distribution of Yucca brevifolia - U.S. Geological Survey - Digital representation of "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr.

Natural distribution of Yucca brevifolia – U.S. Geological Survey – Digital representation of “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr.

Joshua Trees are found in the desert southwest at elevations between 1300 and 5900 feet.  A member of the Yucca family, the Joshua Tree can live several hundred years and grow up to 30 feet tall and have a trunk up to 3 feet in diameter.  The tree trunk contains many small fibers and does not contain growth rings as with typical trees.  A top heavy branched tree, the Joshua tree develops an impressive and deep root system which can reach 31 feet deep.

During the spring months of February, March and April, white flowers signal be beginning of spring for the Joshua Tree.  Flowering is dependent upon both an adequate amount of rain and a freeze.  Once flowered, the Joshua Tree is dependent upon the Yucca month for pollination.  New trees can develop from the roots of existing tree from Rhizomes, however the Yucca moth is required to create new stands of trees from the seeds.

 

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