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Mojave River Valley Museum
Joshua Tree National Park >
Mojave SymbolIf a line is drawn around the outer limits of this strange tree's distribution that line pretty well marks out the marginal confines of the Mohave Desert region.
Edmund C. Jaeger, The North American Deserts, 1957
Bristling with dagger-shaped leaves, the Joshua tree's upraised branches impressed Mormon pioneers in the 1850s. The tree reminded them of the upstretched arms of biblical Joshua, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land. The Mormons coined the tree's name and it stuck. unlike other less intriguing Joshua tree names; cabbage tree, Spanish bayonet tree, yucca palm, yucca tree, or tree lily.
A member of the Lily Family (Liliaceae), the Joshua tree is related to Easter lilies, trilliums, onions, and tulips.
The Joshua tree grows best at mid-elevations (3,000 - 5,000 feet) in broad valleys and on gentle alluvial slopes. It prefers deep, porous soils where its fibrous root system can fan out to anchor the plant and absorb water and nutrients.
The Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) reaches the southern edge of its range in Joshua Tree National Park. This edge marks the transition from the Mojave to the Colorado Desert- as you move from the Mojave to the Colorado, Joshua trees fade away.
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Joshua tree woodland habitat
William Lewis Manly referred to Joshua trees as "cabbage trees" in his book about the rescue of the Bennett and Arcane families from Death Valley. The book, Death Valley in '49, can be read online, with portions pertinent to Death Valley begining at Chapter IX.