20 Things You Didn’t Know About the Joshua Tree

The Joshua Tree National Park is the fascination of artists and tourists who desire to break away from civilization and escape to the peace and quiet of the Mojave Desert. Artisans take inspiration in this place which is roughly 140 miles from Los Angeles, California. This region is dotted with artist colonies that bring a new element to the desert where painters, sculptors, clothing makers, and others are at work creating their wares in an environment that offers a departure from the rules regulations and inhibitions of modern society. It’s a bohemian getaway which has recently become a hotspot for campers as well as the artisans who are busily working on the development of their brands. The town of Joshua Tree is named after the gnarled tree which is native to the region and here are 20 things that you didn’t know about the Joshua Tree.

1. It’s in the lily family

The Joshua Tree is also known by another name. It’s a yucca palm which is an evergreen variety that is a member of the lily family. When you first look at the tree not in bloom, you may have a hard time believing that it is actually a relative of the delicate and lovely lily, but we assure you it’s true. This is just one of the many little-known facts about the amazing plant.

2. There is only one place to find the Joshua Tree

The Joshua Tree only grows in one region of the United States. It’s a native of the Mojave Desert and this is the only place that you will find it growing in the wild. It’s a plant that is right at home in the desert plains and you can see them thriving on the slopes and ridges of the desert to add to the beauty of the landscape.

3. The Joshua Tree performs a vital function

As a part of the ecosystem of the Mojave Desert, the Joshua Tree is a plant that is an important part of the delicate balance of nature in the area it inhabits. It is a high desert plant that provides a place to live and the cool from the desert heat for a number of lizards, insects, birds, and other mammals. This is a vital service in the unrelenting desert sun. Living creatures depend on the Joshua Tree for their very survival. Just as humans use popular shade trees to get out of the sun in civilization, the inhabitants of the desert use the shade of this plant to escape the intense heat of the concentrated UV rays that bake the Mojave desert during the daylight hours.

4. The Joshua Tree is a powerful symbol

This strong and amazing desert plant stands as a symbol of what it means to survive under the harshest conditions that mother nature can whip up. The Joshua Tree stands through the baking desert heat along with hot winds, low humidity, lack of moisture and even an occasional sandstorm. Every Joshua Tree that you see in nature has endured the most dysfunctional environment on earth, yet it continues to grow and to thrive. A part of its beauty is the gnarled and leaning stature. You see, the tree often grows in the direction of the wind and you won’t often see them growing straight up. It is a highly adaptable tree that manages its environment and figuratively speaking, there are many lessons that we as humans can learn from this hearty and determined tree. It flourishes under adversity because it has adapted to its difficult environment and the tree just doesn’t give up.

5. They’re only found at certain altitudes

The Joshua Tree is a particular plant which only grows in certain altitudes of the Mojave’s high desert. You’ll find them growing on ridges, plains, on hills which have flat tops and on slopes in the desert. You’ll only find them growing in areas between 1,300 to 5,900 feet though. This is the altitude that provides the Joshua Tree with the ideal climate and conditions which allow them to thrive.

6. Although great in numbers, the Joshua Tree could be in danger

The Joshua Tree has been the subject of scientific study. It’s a natural wonder because of its ability to thrive and multiply in high desert conditions. This has made it worthy of numerous scientific studies to learn more about what makes this tree adapt and grow where other plants would quickly shrivel and die. Although there are a lot of Joshua Trees growing in the wild, scientists have issued a warning that this may not be the case in the future. They estimate that changes in the climate could take a toll on the chances of the very survival of this plant on the planet earth.

7. The Joshua Tree is protected by law

While there may be a lot of Joshua Trees growing in the Mojave Desert, this doesn’t mean that the species is safe from extinction. First, we must realize that there is only one place in the world where three subspecies of this amazing plant grow. This is a serious risk factor in itself as any climate changes or natural events that alter the environment could literally wipe out the Joshua Tree. It is a crime to cut down or to destroy a Joshua Tree. This tells you how seriously environmentalists are taking the delicate situation under which the Joshua Tree exists. You can’t even legally take a cutting of one that is growing in the wild.

8. Joshua Trees aren’t very big
This plant at maturity will grow to somewhere between 15 to 40 feet tall. They don’t get that big around either. On average, the Joshua Tree will only reach a diameter of between 1 and 3 feet. If you compare it with the average pine tree or the magnificent RedWoods, it’s a little guy in the world of trees.

9. They have a unique composition

The Joshua Tree generally consists of a dense crown that forms within a single stem. A group of erect branches grow out of this crown and give it the unique appearance that distinguishes it from other scarce plants found in its natural habitat. The root system is also complex and a single root can burrow into the earth at a depth of up to 30 feet to find scarce water in the desert. This is how they survive so well in a dry region. A shallow root system spiderwebs out from the plant to collect any rainwater that falls from the sky The plant also develops very large bulbs that have been measured as large as 4 feet wide and can weigh up to 40 pounds.

10. You’re fortunate if you see its blooms

There is a regular blooming season for the Joshua Tree, but it only happens if the environmental conditions are just right. It blooms between February and April. This only takes place during years that have plenty of rain. When there is abundant moisture, the plant can afford to spend some of its energy and physical resources producing blooms which range from green to creamy yellow flowers which grow in a bell shape and cluster upon the plant.

11. The flowers smell bad

The lovely blooms that occasionally populate the Joshua Tree are lovely to look at but the fragrance isn’t very pleasant. This may be a good thing though. It allows them to grow largely unmolested by animals and insects which may otherwise graze on them, so in a sense, it’s one of the ways that the flowers are preserved on the plants.

12. The Joshua Tree and a Moth are codependents

Here’s another interesting fact about Joshua Tree. There is only one type of insect that can stand the scent of the blooms well enough to pollinate the plant. This is the Yucca Moth which is also known as the Pronuba Moth. This is a codependent relationship because, without this moth, the Joshua Tree would not be pollinated. Without the Joshua Tree, the Yucca moth would not have a place to lay her eggs inside the ovaries of the tree, which hatch into larvae and use Joshua Tree seeds as a food source. The two members of the high desert ecosystem simply couldn’t survive without one another. This is yet one more important linkage that the tree has with the natural world and without the Joshua Tree, the entire ecosystem of the Mojave Desert would be significantly disrupted.

13. It produces fruit

After the Yucca moth performs its vital functions of pollinating the Joshua Tree, it blooms, then produces fruit. Unlike the foul-smelling blooms, the fruit isn’t bad tasting. It ripens, falls to the ground and animals eat it, then distribute the seeds accordingly so more Joshua Trees can grow in diverse locations. The fruit is generally elliptically shaped and is a brown or green color. The fruit is somewhat fleshy and each fruit contains a large number of seeds which are flat in appearance.

14. The Joshua Tree received its name from Mormon travelers

For those of you who are wondering where the Joshua Tree got its name, the first people to coin the name were Mormons from the 19th century. They were traveling through the region and they noticed the unique looking plant. The branches of the tree seemed to be pointing towards the sky and they believed that the limbs were pointing in the direction of the Promised Land. They drew the association of the branches with the Prophet Joshua and named the tree after him.

15. Native Americans made housewares from the tree

Long before any retail stores offering bowls and containers were around, local Native Americans made their own. From the bark of the Joshua Tree, they crafted bowls. They used the wide branches of the tree to fashion canisters for collecting berries, nuts, and other foods. After removing the central tissue from the limbs, a lightweight bark remained and this worked very well for making food containers.

16. The Joshua Tree was a source of paper

During the 19th century, conservation of the Joshua Tree wasn’t something that had occurred to settlers who moved into nearby cities. It was a tree and as such, the Joshua Tree was as good as any other woody plant for use in the manufacture of paper. In fact, the London Daily Telegraph used pulp from the Joshua Tree for the manufacture of paper for its issues of the news.

17. They were used to treat soldiers during the war

Joshua Trees also provided a useful service for injured American soldiers. During the era of the First World War, wood from the Joshua Tree was used to make splints. These were used to support broken bones or other leg and arm injuries.

18. They have the potential to last a millennium

Here is another fun fact that most people don’t know about Joshua Tree. It has the potential to survive for up to 1,000 years. This is a full millennium, however, in the wild, the average lifespan of the tree is between 150 to 200 years.

19. A 1,000-year-old Joshua Tree was discovered

Remember when we told you that a Joshua Tree has the potential to live for up to a thousand years? Well, just one example of this ancient tree was discovered in the Mojave desert. The tree was studied to try to determine its actual age. Scientists examined the rings and its size and came up with this estimate. The tree grew to a record height of 80 feet in height. Although the average lifespan doesn’t usually exceed 200 years, some others of the species have been known to live for 500 years and beyond. The tree isn’t even considered to be mature until it is 60 years of age.

20. They grow in four states

It’s true that there is only one place in the world that you can find the Joshua Tree. This is in the Mojave Desert. However, the Desert is so vast that it encompasses four states in the USA. These are Southwest California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.

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