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Joshua Tree National Park > Roadside Interpretations

The Adventurous Yucca

It is like an adventurous yucca that has embarked on an endeavor to find out in how many directions it can grow, and to see what it can do in the way of performing branches.
William Collins O'Kane, The Intimate Desert, 1969

As you look at this wide expanse of Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) you can see hoe the notion O'Kane wrote about might have originated. Explorers, naturalists, and writers have described the trees as strange, grotesque, peculiar, bristly, stiff, ungraceful, repulsive, bizarre, endlessly varying, spine-studded, and spiteful-looking. How would you describe it?

The Joshua tree is the largest variety of yucca in the United States. The biggest known Joshua tree in the park is some 42 feet tall. with a crown width of 34 feet and a trunk nearly 9 feet round. The average life span of a Joshua tree in 150 years, but some are believed to live as long as 300-500 years.

Joshua trees start growing as single stalks. Branching occurs when the meristem (growth tip) flowers or is eaten by animals. New branches can sprout in any direction.

A Joshua tree seed must be dropped in a protective location to survive. Often a safe site is within a nurse plant- a plant not likely eaten by a mule deer, rabbits, woodrats, or ground squirrels. Here the young Joshua is able to grow a protective armor of spine-tipped leaves.

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Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia)

ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - map/sat - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - book store
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