Iconic Desert Wildlife: The Joshua Tree

Maybe you’ve heard of the Joshua Tree because of the famous national park in California, or you’ve had every word of the U2 album memorized since you were a kid. Either way, these strange trees with their stubby branches are an important part of the iconic landscape of the American desert. Interestingly, the Joshua Tree’s name comes from Mormon pioneers who thought that the branches of these trees looked like the arms of the prophet Joshua reaching his arms up to heaven in prayer. Whether or not you follow the Biblical reference, it’s not hard to see the connection between the shape of the Joshua Tree and the silhouette of a person, perhaps giving a friendly wave to welcome you to the desert.

Far from being just funny looking, the unique aspects of the Joshua Tree have helped it to survive in the desert for many years.
Physical Characteristics
The trees are covered in spiny leaves designed to catch moisture from the air, and they have deep root systems that can extend up to 36 feet. The blooming of a Joshua Tree is dependent on having a proper amount of rainfall and a winter freeze, meaning it doesn’t happen every year. If you get the chance to see a Joshua in bloom, you’ll notice they have clusters of cream colored flowers that eventually turn into a greenish fruit that looks similar to a small banana. The seeds from these fruit are eaten and spread throughout the desert by birds and rodents, while their flowers are pollinated exclusively by the yucca moth.
Uses For The Tree
Although it’s far from a traditional tree, the Joshua Tree leaves provided material for indigenous people and early settlers to make rope or weave together to create baskets and mats. Joshua Trees have soft, spongy wood that doesn’t lend itself well to large construction projects, but hollowed out limbs would become containers, while lightweight bark was used to make dishes and bowls.
Conservation Status
Unfortunately for this strange and beautiful tree, climate change is greatly affecting its desert habitat. The plants and animals that live in the hottest parts of the world are already so specially adapted to withstand the heat and lack of water sources, that even slightly increased temperatures can make it impossible to survive. With droughts on the rise in deserts, more frequent wildfires pose an additional risk to the safety of already fragile populations. As if that wasn’t enough, Joshua Trees in California are being negatively affected by smog and pollution, and increased nitrogen levels are making it easier for invasive weeds to thrive and disturb the ecosystem. Scientists who study Joshua Trees have found that many have not reproduced in decades, and say that climate change models predict a drastic reduction in the population over the next century. Recent efforts to help preserve the Joshua Tree include trees in the Mojave National Preserve in California gaining permanent federal protection, but it will take continued environmental action to ensure these trees have a secure future.
Joshua Tree And Our Tours
While enjoying our ATV tours in Las Vegas you will be able to enjoy the beauty of the Joshua tree. They are scattered throughout the desert landscape of our trails and are everything we have talked about. This unique desert tree is a must see while you visit the Las Vegas Mojave desert.
2018-04-05T19:07:48+00:00 April 4th, 2017|0 Comments

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