The Mojave Desert is one of the most incredible destinations on the planet, in my opinion. The terrain and the plant-life are just unreal, and none more so than the Joshua Tree. Read on to learn all of the important facts about the Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert.
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All About the Joshua Tree: A Mojave Desert Staple
The Mojave Desert is an incredible place. It is home to unique geological formations, white sand dunes, and extreme temperatures. Though it is the smallest North American desert, there are endless things to do in the Mojave Desert.
The terrain and the plant-life of the Mojave Desert are just unreal, and none more so than the Joshua Tree.
What Is a “Joshua Tree”?
The name “Joshua Tree” is actually a bit of a misnomer, because Joshua Trees are actually not trees at all. They belong to the Yucca genus, technically names Yucca Brevifolia.
Joshua Trees are the largest Yucca in the world. Their height and shape is the reason that they are often called trees. They are also called Yucca Palms and Palm Tree Yuccas.
Where Do Joshua Trees Grow?
Joshua Trees have a fairly small habitat. They are limited to the confines of the Mojave Desert, which overlaps California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. And, they only grow between 2,000 through 6,000 feet of elevation. With such specificity, it is probably no surprise how rare these plants are.
How Tall are Joshua Trees?
How tall a Joshua Tree will grow depends on a number of environmental factors. They tend to grow from 15 to 40 feet tall with a diameter of 1 to 3 feet.
How Quickly Do Joshua Trees Grow in the Mojave Desert?
These are slow growing plants overall, but are considered quite fast for a desert species. During the first decade of their life, Joshua Trees gain about 2 to 3 inches of height each year. Afterwards, they average around 1.5 inches per year.
Are Joshua Trees a Protected Species?
Most of the world’s Joshua Trees are found within the boundary of my favorite National Park in the USA – Joshua Tree National Park. It is illegal to damage, dig up, or take home plants and wildlife in National Parks.
Furthermore, Joshua Trees are crucial to the Mojave Desert’s ecosystem. They provide food and housing to all kinds of desert critters.
Which Mojave Desert Creatures Need the Joshua Tree?
Many types of birds build their nests in Joshua Trees, and many lizards live in the fallen branches on the desert floor. Additionally, countless animals feed on the flowers, fruit, and seeds of the Joshua Tree.
The Joshua Trees don’t attract pollinators with nectar, as flowers do, but when Yucca Moths lay eggs on or move between the yucca’s blooms, the moths pollinate the Joshua Tree and perpetuate the species.
The Joshua Tree acts as a food source for the Yucca Moth, as well as a nest. Therefore, a symbiotic relationship exists between Joshua Trees and Yucca Moths – one that neither species would likely survive without.
When Do Joshua Trees in the Mojave Desert Bloom?
February through May is the typical period to see new Joshua Tree blooms.
Why Are They Called Joshua Trees?
Joshua Trees are believed to be named by Mormon settlers in the 1800s. As the story goes, they began calling the yucca “The Joshua” due to it’s unusual shape reminding them of a Bible scripture. But, the exact origin is a mystery.
Exactly How Old Are Joshua Trees?
This crazy yucca takes between 50 to 60 years to mature, and they can live from an average of 150 years up to one thousand years.
Is Climate Change Affecting These Yuccas?
Yes, unfortunately. Protecting each Joshua Tree is critical – it is believed that climate change could wipe out the Joshua Tree in the 21st Century.
The Joshua Trees of the Mojave Desert are an incredible species! I urge anyone who hasn’t visited Joshua Tree National Park to go for a visit. There you can see first hand just how special these yuccas are.