Joshua Tree National Park -
Nature & Environment
California Fan Palm Oases
In an otherwise hot and sparse environment, palm oases provide the luxury
of shade and coolness. The oases require a constant supply of water, so
they will occur along fault lines where hard rock forces water from
underground to the surface. There are 158 desert fan palm oases in North
America. Five are located in
Joshua Tree National Park.
Washington filifera, the desert fan palm, is a native to the low
hot deserts of California. They can live for 80 or 90 years and grow up to
75 feet tall. They are definately the heaviest, with a mature palm
weighing up to three tons. Its leaves are folded and shaped like a fan.
They can grow up to nearly six feet in length and width. When the leaves
die they remain attached to the trunk until removed by wind, fire or flood.
People have been using palm oases since prehistoric times. Native
Americans, such as the
would set fire to the oases
to increase fruit production and remove the sharp-edged fronds from the
desert floor. They would use the broad leaves for waterproof shelters
and ate the fruit. They would also propogate oases by planting seeds
in locations that looked promising.
Desert fan palms have to have water available to them. They absorb water
using a system with pencil-sized rootlets so dense other plants cannot
penetrate. These rootlets spread about 20 feet from the tree in all
directions. However, these rootlets are subject to washing away easily
in flash floods. Fan palm trees living in narrow canyons will typically
die from flash floods.
The surface water at an oasis will attract animals such as
Coyotes will eat the fruit and deposit the undigested seeds in other
areas, if there is enough water they will grow.
Western yellow bat will only live in fan palm trees.
will also make their home in the giant leaves. Hooded oriole may also
make thier woven sack nests under the leaves. Holes in the tree trunk
are made by the blue-black, giant palm-boring beetle, Dinapate wrightii.
These beetles live exclusively in fan palms.
Palms stand straight, tall and look beautiful providing a unique
and welcome area for many different kinds of animals. They are fragile
though, and deserve our respect when exploring them.
Lost Palms Oasis
49 Palms Oasis
Oasis of Mara
Waterholes, Springs & Oases