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The Way of the Joshua Tree

(c)Carlos Gallinger - TheWayofThings.org

The Joshua tree like all plants can teach us a lot about the environment that they inhabit, so we must understand the mechanism of each plant to understand them and their environment. With that in mind we know that all plants have a particular temperature sunlight, water, and soil condition that they need to grow. So let's start with temperature we know that the Joshua tree rarely grows below 3000 feet and rarely above about 6500. What this tells us is this the Joshua tree can withstand high temperatures but not as high as the Palo Verde or {} smoke tree. Then at the other end of the scale it can withstand freezing temperatures but only to a point. Also because of its particular design, the area around a Joshua tree and a Joshua tree grove tend to be a cooler place. The reason for this is that the design and shape of the Joshua tree; in particular a mature Joshua tree casts a large and dense shadow on the ground. And one can often trace out this shadow on the ground by the smaller plants that grow their. Another unique feature of this design is that it reflects the sun's radiant energy back up into the moving air and away from the ground. Unlike the Mesquite or the smoke tree that will reflect a large amount of this energy to the ground on their South side. Now when it comes to water the Joshua has its own way of doing things as well. {} It has an unusually stringy root system that allows it to collect water deep in the soil very efficiently. And is () rarely found in an area where the water velocity is high or where it is in danger of being washed out. Likewise it's unusual to find one on a steep and rocky slope. {} Rather it tends to like flatter terrain with a deep and loamy soil that is primarily made up from decomposed granite. So for one who wonders the desert there's a key attribute to this soil condition that one should be keenly aware of. For this type of soil is soft enough digging in and yet strong enough to support a tunnel. There for the Joshua tree often marks out this key attribute in the desert environment where animals as diverse as the kit fox and the tarantula can make their home. Allowing them to live and prosper here where otherwise they could not. It is deep in these holes with their relatively mild temperatures they can preserve their body’s moisture in the summer months. Likewise in the winter months they can preserve their body's temperature without burning precious calories.

Another interesting fact about the Joshua tree is that it rarely acts alone, or another way one could say this, is that if Joshua trees were animals they would be a herd animal. So in order for one to understand the tree one is also understand the forest. For example when you walk through a Joshua tree forest sometimes you'll find one or two Joshua trees that are larger than the rest. To understand this we have to fully comprehend all the attributes that we have been talking about as well as time. And that is not to say that these one or two trees are simply older than the rest although that might also be true. Another reason for their size may be that they have collected more water throughout their lifetime. Due to such things as the lay of the land, quality of soil,and the size and density of their own shadow. Often when you find a tree or two like this, you will have also found a place where the birds of prey have perched for a very long time. And because of that many of their limbs will be covered with white bird droppings, and one might also find {} small skulls and other body parts lying around their base. This of course will fertilize these trees and help them grow bigger and healthier than most of the other trees, which will attract even more birds and more fertilizer and so on. Thus we have a feedback loop which is a primal force of nature that we see throughout all environments. Now we can see how the individual birds of prey can affect the individual Joshua tree and the individual Joshua tree can affect the birds of prey, and they're both an integral part of the Joshua tree forest.

So if we look at these one or two large trees and try to understand them in the context of the Joshua tree forest we will find that there are many different directions that we could go to achieve this understanding. But for now let's start with the wind, {} the wind is an element of creation that flows through the Joshua tree forest and has all kinds of effects. For one a stand of Joshua trees can slow down the wind and allow dust and sand to accumulate on the desert floor thus changing the soil composition. Another condition brought about by the wind in the Joshua tree forest is noise a kind of noise that can be either a soft whisper or a roaring sound depending on the speed of the wind. This sound can have a tremendous effect on the behavior of some animals both predator and prey because it can affect what they can be aware of, and what is aware of them.

For me the Joshua tree forest has always been a fairly complex place yet in its own way a very stable place. It seems when a Joshua tree forests experiences good times it just gets thicker. And in bad times it seems to thin out a bit. Either way it doesn't seem to gain or lose much territory through the ages. However one must see this through the lifespan of a Joshua tree or perhaps through the lifespan of a Joshua tree forest. Sometimes you can get a sense of this when you walk through the edge of a Joshua tree grove and see that it is not bordered by dead trees or young ones. Although you may find some that are smaller and stunted but quite old. Well this is just some of the many ways of the Joshua tree; I hope these ideas and concepts will increase the depth and beauty of your own personal experience when you walk the desert.



ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - book store
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - glossary - comments
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