Not all yuccas are Joshua trees.Most widespread of the Joshua’s two, Mojave Desert compatriots is Yucca schidigera, fittingly known as the Mojave yucca.Rarely more than seven feet in height with multiple trunks that only occasionally branch, Yucca schidigera can be readily distinguished from a Joshua tree by its much longer leaves.Joshua tree leaves are generally less than a foot in length compared with Mojave yucca leaves that may exceed four feet.Closely related to the Mojave yucca is the banana yucca (Yucca baccata) which derives its common name from the shape of its fruit. .
10 Facts About The Incredible Joshua Tree
They’re a plant belonging to the Yucca genus that happens to resemble the size and growth pattern of a tree.It also bears the Spanish name izote de desierto, which means “desert dagger.”.The shape of the tree reminded the settlers of the story where Joshua reaches up his hands to the sky in prayer.If you happen to find yourself a bit hungry in the Mojave Desert, you might look to the Joshua Tree as a possible snack.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.Without the Yucca moths, Joshua Trees would have a harder time reproducing due to reduced pollination.It is a violation of federal law to take or damage plants and wildlife in National Parks.Additionally, new research is indicating that the trees are being negatively impacted by climate change, making their protection even more important.How tall a Joshua Tree will grow depends on a number of environmental factors. .
Taxonomy The Joshua tree is also called izote de desierto (Spanish, "desert dagger"). It was first formally described in the botanical literature as Yucca brevifolia by George Engelmann in 1871 as part of the Geological Exploration of the 100th meridian (or "Wheeler Survey"). Ranchers and miners who were contemporary with the Mormon immigrants used the trunks and branches as fencing and for fuel for ore-processing steam engines.herbertii (Webber's yucca or Herbert Joshua tree), though both are sometimes treated as varieties or forms. The trunk consists of thousands of small fibers and lacks annual growth rings, making determining the tree's age difficult.The evergreen leaves are dark green, linear, bayonet-shaped, 15–35 cm long and 7–15 mm broad at the base, tapering to a sharp point; they are borne in a dense spiral arrangement at the apex of the stems. Conservation status Joshua trees are one of the species predicted to have their range reduced and shifted by climate change. Cahuilla Native Americans, who have lived in the Southwestern United States for generations, identify this plant as a valuable resource and call it hunuvat chiy’a or humwichawa.Their ancestors used the leaves of Y. brevifolia to weave sandals and baskets, in addition to harvesting the seeds and flower buds for meals. .
Joshua trees may disappear with climate change—but scientists are
By 2100, scientists predict that Joshua Tree National Park will lose almost all of its Joshua tree habitat to climate change.But the Joshua tree relies on other species to survive, and a new study on the relationship between Joshua trees and a type of symbiotic yucca moth piles on the bad news.According to the study, yucca moths, which the Joshua tree relies on to reproduce, aren’t healthy in the few places where Joshua trees can survive the heat.Joshua trees and the yucca moth depend on one another in a striking example of co-evolution.If the yucca moths don’t survive in the park’s cold pockets, Joshua trees won’t make it long either, and both species will disappear from the park.“In the cooler parts of the park,” Harrower explained, “the trees are just not sexually reproducing.” That, she says, will make it impossible for them to move with the changing climate.(Learn more about climate change impacts to popular national parks.).Of moths and trees.Joshua Tree National Park sits at the extreme southern edge of the Joshua tree’s range, and so trees there are the first to be threatened by climate change.“You see these ‘fairy rings,’ a circle of trees with nothing in the middle,” says Chris Smith, a biologist at Willamette University.The fairy rings turn out to be the result of asexual reproduction—the trees can sprout clones from their roots—but it’s not a winning strategy in the long term.Harrower wanted to know if interspecies relationships played into the story.Although the relationship between moths and Joshua trees was well known—“It’s literally in every biology textbook,” she laughs—no one had studied how the trees and moths overlapped in Joshua Tree National Park, or how the insects respond to temperature.This northernmost national park in the U.S. is visited by only a few thousand people a year, making for great wildlife viewing.Gates of the Arctic is one of several national parks in remote, roadless areas of Alaska.This northernmost national park in the U.S.
is visited by only a few thousand people a year, making for great wildlife viewing.“It’s like the moths are farming the trees,” says Harrower.But the moths need the trees, too.“Yucca moths need to lay their eggs inside of a Joshua tree flower,” explains Harrower.“These plants didn’t evolve with fire, so they just don’t come back from it,” says David Smith, the park’s superintendent.Harrower grew up just outside the national park, and the time she spent working in the nearby Big Morongo Canyon Preserve set her on her course as a naturalist. .
Can You Touch a Joshua Tree?
No, you should not touch the Joshua trees if you care about this iconic species that gives Joshua Tree National Park and the area around Joshua Tree its name.While touching a Joshua tree or posing leaning against it or hanging from it for that perfect Instagram photo may not technically be illegal, you don’t want to risk damaging these unique and fragile plants.Find Joshua Tree Camping & Glamping.So, when we’re snapping photos of our desert adventures among the Joshua trees, let’s all avoid touching them, hanging from them, or leaning up against them.9 sites where you can camp and glamp among the Joshua trees.Stargazer Yurt at Luna Vista Ranch Located 10 miles from the West Entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, this well-appointed yurt has sinks with potable water and a gorgeous outdoor shower and bathtub, and you can roll out of bed and then enjoy your morning coffee while sitting among the Joshua trees.Grand Tipi @ Camp Temenōs Located on the north edge of Pioneertown Mountains Preserve, just 30 minutes from the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, this peaceful campsite offers a king-sized bed and indoor sink and hot plate.Views of Joshua Trees are also directly outside the door of the tipi.Pathfinder Tipi at Camp Temenōs The Pathfinder Tipi at Camp Temenōs will be an unforgettable part of your Joshua Tree trip.The 1950 Spartan at Camp Temenōs This immaculately-restored midcentury trailer sits amid Joshua trees.Camp Ruffin’ It at Joshua Tree This dog-friendly campsite is 5 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park and allows you to pitch your tent alongside the Joshua trees.Book your next camping, glamping, or RV trip now. .
Context‐dependent mutualisms in the Joshua tree–yucca moth
The outcome of mutualistic species interactions can set geographical ranges (Afkhami et al. 2014) and influence population dynamics (Holland et al. 2002).Abiotic changes can enhance a mutualism, convert it to antagonism, disrupt it, or force migration of one or both species (Bronstein 1994, Warren and Bradford 2014, Rafferty et al. 2015).Rapid anthropogenic climate change is one of the biggest threats to ecosystems, visible as disruption of species’ phenology (Field et al.
2014, Melillo et al. 2014), the decoupling of trophic relationships (Van der Putten et al.
2010), asynchronous species range shifts (Chen et al. 2011), and differential outcomes of symbiotic interactions (Tylianakis et al. 2008, Hegland et al. 2009, CaraDonna et al.
2017).Elevation gradients function as natural experimental systems through systematic variation in abiotic and biotic factors and provide opportunities to gain needed insight into the context dependence of mutualisms (Sundqvist et al. 2013, Rasmann et al. 2014).Changes in weather patterns or in soil temperature, moisture, and nutrients can impact the outcomes of species interactions (Forrest 2015, McQuillan and Rice 2015, Rafferty et al. 2015).The yucca moth is the tree's only pollinator and her growing larvae consume a fraction of the fertilized seeds; this results in a tight codependence between the species for survival (Pellmyr and Huth 1994).Developing moth larvae consume a fraction of the fertile seeds (D), exit the pod, and form a cocoon in the soil (E).The interacting partners may respond differently, creating an asynchrony in species phenology that can lead to population decline and local extinction (Pellmyr and Huth 1994, Geib and Galen 2012, Rafferty et al. 2015).Here, we examine how the abundance of each species varies by elevation and quantify how the outcome of the Joshua tree–yucca moth interaction shifts depending on the context of where it occurs. .
What is the difference between a yucca and Joshua Tree?
The Joshua tree, which grows in fiercely adverse conditions, was seen by U2 as a symbol of faith and hope in the midst of aridity.Named by Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-1800s, the tree's unusual shape reminded them of the Bible story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.Although they look somewhat like palm trees, they are actually Yuccas, members of the asparagus family and close relatives of Agave, the plant used to make tequila. .
How a Tree and Its Moth Shaped the Mojave Desert
Plants and their insect pollinators, he surmised, must evolve in conjunction with one another in a process he coined “co-evolution” until they blossom into a dazzling array of forms.But in the vast world of plants and their pollinators, there was one example that Darwin deemed the “most wonderful case of fertilisation ever published” in a letter to botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker.With its spiny fronds and clubbed tufts topped by pungent, waxy flowers twisting towards the desert sky, this desert-adapted shrub has a reputation for otherworldliness.Everyone who passes through the desert remembers the majestic Joshua tree; its namesake has inspired artists, filmmakers and many a sojourner in search of transcendence.The small, dun bug is initially unassuming, but upon closer inspection, it is an equally extraterrestrial match for the iconic Joshua tree.Instead of a regular mouthpiece, it sports bizarre, tentacle-like fronds, the likes of which are unique among insects—and serve an essential purpose in the desert ecosystem.His previous research focused on cactus longhorn beetles and the spiny plant species they interact with throughout the Sonoran Desert.Ecologists long believed that one species of yucca moth (Tegeticula synthetica) pollinates both kinds of Joshua trees.To determine if co-evolution brought about this suspicious speciation, Smith led a team of citizen scientists in 2013 and 2014 to collect morphological data in the one spot where the two species of Joshua trees and their corresponding moths live in harmony: Tikaboo Valley.Research already demonstrates that the differences in ovipositor length and body size in the yucca moths’ genomes are more pronounced, suggesting that natural selection has driven the discrepancy.Because the Joshua tree is a keystone species in the Mojave, a number of different insects, lizards, and birds will lose important sources of habitat in, on, and under their branches.Even in the worst-case scenarios, there are spots Barrows calls “refugia” where Joshua trees could propagate and thrive – if they stay clear of invasive weeds and wildfires – but the range is shrinking considerably.Right now, seedlings are growing within 100 meters of their parent plants; in order to reach areas that are cool enough to survive, they may need to move thousands of miles.Due the yucca moth’s brief lifespan and short interaction with Joshua trees, it is difficult to study how they will respond to such changes in their environments.Some scientists have suggested physically moving species threatened by climate change, but this could disrupt systems that are not yet fully understood. .
Mojave Desert fire destroyed the heart of Joshua Tree forest
Smoke rose from the top of Cima Dome, marking the start of a wildfire that would ravage the heart of one of the world’s largest Joshua tree forests.The Aug. 15 Dome fire was not a surprise.In 2005, roughly 1 million acres of the Mojave burned, including part of the preserve to the southeast of Cima Dome.Sohr stand near a blackened Joshua tree in the Mojave National Preserve.A little more help arrived Saturday evening.Winds gusting to 20 mph continued to drive flames through Joshua trees and an understory of native shrubs and grass peppered with red brome, an ubiquitous invader.Although the Cima Dome forest is known as the world’s largest Joshua tree woodland, Esque and another researcher have documented a bigger stand and a thicker one elsewhere in the Mojave.Debra Hughson, science chief of the Mojave National Preserve, talks about the ecological effects of the Dome fire.On the dome, cattle munched on native perennial bunch grasses but left native blackbrush, one of the desert’s most flammable plants, alone.In that way, preserve scientists theorize that cattle grazing helped create the dome’s unusually thick Joshua tree stands — but also set the stage for last month’s conflagration.Hughson and Kaiser don’t have early accounts to prove it, but they believe that grazing changed the dome from a more open savanna of native grasses studded with big old Joshua trees to a dense Joshua woodland that was undergrown by a mixture of native shrubs, bunch grasses and invasive red brome.“The fire would not have burned so hot had it not been overgrazed and didn’t have an increased fuel load,” Kaiser said.As it is, of the estimated 1.33 million burned Joshua trees, Kaiser says fewer than 200,000 are topped by green leaves and have any chance of survival.“The Joshua tree forest was not sustainable,” Hughson said.Drew Kaiser checks for red brome, an invasive grass, in an unburned portion of the Joshua tree forest.Kaiser stood among piles of ash — all that was left of incinerated Joshua trees and yuccas in an area where the blaze was especially hot, consuming the vegetation and even the root systems of native grasses and shrubs.“I know there has been a lot of heartbreak and distress and people want it to come back.“We restore the ecological processes that drive the native vegetation.”.A few years of drought can kill youngsters.