|Yucca brevifolia - Joshua Tree|
Endemic to the Mojave Desert (that crosses California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada) but perhaps with its greatest density in the self-titled Joshua Tree National Park, Yucca brevifolia Engelm. has many attributes of a tree - a trunk with branches, leaves, flowers and fruit. And it is these unquestionable similarities that have informed a number of its common names including the widely used Joshua Tree. However, it does not fit into either a coniferous or deciduous variety and is classified as a monocot in the plant family Asparagaceae. As such it does not have growth rings, thus making it difficult to estimate the age of one. Yet it is known that they can survive hundreds of years, if not thousands. Its branches can be extremely variable in habit, but generally go up and out, which is how it came to acquire the first part of its common name, where Mormon settlers who named it, thought it resembled Joshua from the bible, raising his arms up in supplication. Local indigenous peoples have their own names of course and have made use of the plant for food and materials for centuries.
|Joshua Tree National Park|
Whether global warming is a factor, or other environmental influences, perhaps the most interesting recent event for this plant was that 2013 has gone on record as one of the greatest years for flowering, with blooming Joshua Trees in great abundance over most of its range. What a wonderful sight to have seen first-hand.
CoL Annual Checklist: Yucca brevifolia
CoL contributor: World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
Image copyright: R L F Matthias