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Joshua Tree National Park > Roadside Interpretations

Tree of Life

When you try to pick out anything by itself, you find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
John Muir

The Joshua tree is to the Mojave Desert as the giant saguaro cactus is to the Sonoran Desert- both plants are host to many animals dependant upon them. Both illustrate how intertwined desert life truly is. For the Joshua tree it all begins with a moth.

The blossoms of the Joshua tree are pollinated only by the yucca moth. The moth collects the flower's pollen to help nourish her expected offspring; she taps the pollen into the funnel-shaped pistil. At the base of the pistil she are undeveloped seeds; it is here that the moth lays her eggs. Now fertilized by the pollen, the seeds grow and provide food for the hatchling larvae. The larvae grow and emerge, and ample seeds are left to scatter.

The Joshua tree has many other connected relationships;

The Scott's oriole hangs a basket-shaped nest in protective Joshua leaf clusters.

The loggerhead shrike will use the spiny leaves to skewer its prey.

The ladder-backed woodpecker pecks a nesting hole in the Joshua tree trunk.

The woodrat builds a nest of cactus joints and discarded Joshua tree leaves at the base of the tree.

The antelope ground squirrel feeds on scattered Joshua tree seeds.

The spotted night snake crawls among the dead tree limbs searching for its favorite prey- yucca night lizards.

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Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia)


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