Joshua Trees: Praise the Sky, The Yucca has Come

Joshua Tree smallThese past few days, I have spent some bopping around Lancaster. Enough to know that it is mostly desert country. Mohave desert country to be specific. Beautiful in its own terribly dry and scorching hot way. It is a place where a grass lawn looks startlingly out of place. (And yet people still try to grow it.)

One sure sign you are in the Mohave is the presence of Joshua trees. Passing a field of Joshua trees is like stumbling on a crowd of trees that suddenly got religion of the David Koresh kind. These born again trees raise twisted limbs to the sky in a crazed supplication. Apparently the early Mormon pioneers thought so as well, as they supposedly named for the prophet Joshua.

My sister informed me that it is illegal to take down or move a Joshua Tree and that the properties that are covered with them are rendered worthless. A search of the internet when I got home showed no such law, but I wonder if this is a widespread urban legend in these parts and if an unsuspecting homeowner’s value is affected by it.

Joshua Tree BlossomJoshua trees are yuccas. A painfully slow growing yucca, growing only an average of a half inch a year. I was particularly lucky in that the Joshua Trees were in full bloom, which only happens from February to April and not every year. Blooming only happens if an appropriate amount of rainfall happens. I just was lucky that the right conditions happened this year and that I had the chance to be here.   The tree also has just one pollinator, the Yucca Moth.

Frequently, Joshua Trees are seen growing in groups and this happens because they can grow from underground rhizomes. They also grow from seeds.

The biggest threat to Joshua Trees is in the desert is wind. These plants have very shallow root systems and the a good stiff wind can knock them over in a heartbeat.   Struck down by the hand of God, I suppose you could say.

Crooked and bent, constantly battling the elements, these trees are a testament to the sheer tenacity of plants in the desert. They are also a symbol of the botanical beauty that exists in even the harshest elements.

8 thoughts on “Joshua Trees: Praise the Sky, The Yucca has Come
  1. Kudos on a great blog…

    The joshua trees are waayyy bizarre. The stepkids live in that area, so I’ve heard about the “protected” status too. It may be a local ordinance, instead of federally protected. (sounds like a job for… Reference Librarian! (my daytime identity)

    If you get the chance, tour the Huntington Gardens and/or the LA Arboretum. Now *those* are awesome gardens!

    I love gardening in LA– not that I’m good at it, but just stick some drip irrigation on it and things grow.


  2. Found a reference from a California Public Utilities document…

    The California Desert Native Plants Act (Act), California Food and Agricultural Code, Division 23, requires a permit from several counties in southern California (including Los Angeles and Kern Counties) for the removal of Joshua trees and other native vegetation occurring in the deserts of California. In addition, Joshua trees are protected under City of Palmdale Code, Chapter 14.04 Joshua Tree and Native Desert Vegetation Preservation which requires: (1) a desert
    vegetation preservation plan with minimum preservation standards for removal of vegetation at sites with Joshua trees (2 Joshua trees per gross acre); and (2) obtaining a
    permit from the City landscape architect.

    (end of boring stuff you really didn’t ask for anyway… I can’t help being a bit OCD about government info. My specialty is Government/PoliSci.)


  3. Hanna on

    Ruth S. – Cool! thanks for the info. I appreciate it. It is rare that my sister is wrong, so I was surprised that I could find no info on laws about Joshua Trees. It is good to know she still has her impeccable record. 🙂


  4. Very interesting post, and thanks Ruth for the follow-up. They are weirdly beautiful, much more so than a suburban lawn in the desert.



  5. They are definitely unique for those of us not in desert areas. We saw many of them a few years ago when we went to California. Interesting post, thanks!


  6. There’s something about the southwest and the desert that got into my soul. Over 35 years later I long to go back.

    It was nice seeing the Joshua trees again even if only a photo. Now I have some knowledge to go with the fond memories.


  7. John on

    Hello Hanna,

    I am glad you are having fun in California. I and SWMBO (
    AKA Susie ) are in Lima visiting Olivia, and her two sisters. In fact Oliviaa is with us now, so this would be the royal ‘we’. Indeed a rare treat for the elder, one handed typing member of this duo!

    We congratulate you on your inabillity to search for buearocratic terms….beware of that dark side too! Thinking that way oft hand is a most un-natural habit.

    Blessed with your clues to key words we have found said reference, though I immeadiately fled the page to protect young and innocent eyes!

    Know this lest I sound too clever for my years, Internet Explorer tormented me, for trying to return with this knowledge. Like a new day Prometheus beset by jealous gods. ‘You shall not carry away the link’… think of Gandalf and the balrog,,,

    We have survived windows vista, and I think lived to tell the tale. Olivia and I will rest for now. No we will not fade into the west…. Besides the momma has returned! Olivia says hurah!

    ttfn from Lima!

    PS – desert plants are their own sort of awsome. Some day I should tell you about Arches NP, desert tested Junipers and scrub oak, and a very wayward clump of dwarfed and stunted poison ivy. Did I say awsome ?

    Enough of these clicky keys Olivia bids quiet. fare well and travel safe !


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