Tree Talk| 3 min read

10 Facts About The Joshua Tree

Joshua Trees are incredibly unusual-looking, in part because they’re not actually a tree at all.

Joshua Trees are incredibly unusual-looking, in part because they’re not actually a tree at all. They’re a plant belonging to the Yucca genus that happens to resemble the size and growth pattern of a tree. Read on, to learn more about this interesting plant.


10 Facts About The Joshua Tree


1. Where do Joshua Trees grow?

These unique trees have a fairly limited range within the Mojave Desert of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. They only grow between elevations of 2,000 and 6,000 feet.


2. What are Joshua Trees?

Yucca brevifolia, otherwise known as the Joshua Tree, is a species belonging to the yucca genus. Joshua Trees are actually the world’s largest yucca in the world. They are sometimes called yucca palms, tree yuccas, or palm tree yuccas. It also bears the Spanish name izote de desierto, which means “desert dagger.”

3. Why are they called Joshua Trees?

There are a couple stories about how the Joshua Tree got its name. One tells of the name being given by Mormon settlers as they crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-1800s. The shape of the tree reminded the settlers of the story where Joshua reaches up his hands to the sky in prayer. By the 1870s, some Mormons were referring to the Yucca Palm as “The Joshua.” But the exact origin is a mystery.

joshua tree


4. What eats Joshua Trees?

If you happen to find yourself a bit hungry in the Mojave Desert, you might look to the Joshua Tree as a possible snack. We wouldn’t recommend trying to chow down on any part of the tree, as they are protected. But even though it’s not a snack for us, Joshua Trees do provide critical food and habitat to animals in the Mojave Desert. Yucca moths, in particular, collect the tree’s pollen and lay their eggs on the flowers.

The caterpillars of the Yucca moth eat the tree’s seeds. This relationship is symbiotic. Without the Yucca moths, Joshua Trees would have a harder time reproducing due to reduced pollination.

5. How old are Joshua Trees?

The oldest Joshua Tree is estimated to be approximately 1,000 years old, but this tree may be an outlier. The average lifespan of a Joshua Tree is said to be about 500 years.

6. Why are Joshua Trees protected?

Most of the world’s Joshua Trees are found within the boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. It is a violation of federal law to take or damage plants and wildlife in National Parks. But why the protection?

Joshua Trees are crucial to the ecosystem of the Mojave Desert. They provide food and habitat to local species. Additionally, new research is indicating that trees are being negatively impacted by climate change, making their protection even more important.


joshua tree

7. How many Joshua Trees are there?

There doesn’t seem to be a clear estimate of how many Joshua Trees exist in the world, but given their limited range, protecting each Joshua Tree is critical.

8. When do Joshua Trees bloom?

Joshua Tree flowers begin to develop between March and May, but during winter 2018/2019, Joshua Trees were observed to be blooming beginning in November. This is incredibly uncommon.


9. How fast do Joshua Trees grow?

Joshua Trees are slow-growing trees, adding only 2 to 3 inches each year. It will take 50 to 60 years for a Joshua Tree to reach full height. They will live, on average, around 500 years.


10. How tall are Joshua Trees?

How tall a Joshua Tree will grow depends on a number of environmental factors. They tend to grow from 15 to 40 feet tall with a diameter of 1 to 3 feet. These trees are slow growers, usually only adding 2 to 3 inches each year. It will take around half a century for a Joshua Tree to reach full size.


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