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Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Yuccas Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) are the signature species of the Mojave Desert: if you see Joshua trees, you are in the Mojave Desert -- no questions asked. Joshua trees are a major component of the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub) life zone, and they extend into the Upper Sonoran (Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) life zone.

Family: Agave (Agavaceae).

Other Names: tree yucca, joshua tree yucca.

Plant Form: Upright, many branched tree sparsely scattered across the landscape.

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

Height: usually 15 to 20 feet, maximum to 30 feet.

Trunk: generally 12-15 inches diameter, to 3 feet; brown, rough, and furrowed. Young trunks covered with dead leaves.

Leaves: long (usually 8-10 inches, to 14 inches) and narrow, straight, pointed tip, toothed margins, dark green. Live leaves clustered at the ends of branches in dense rosettes; dead leaves stay attached for years and cover the trunks.

Flowers: greenish-white, waxy, bell shaped, to 3.5 inches long. Flowers clustered on stalks (to 1.5-feet long) at the branch tips. Blooms in the spring.

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

Seeds: Occur in green seedpods about 1.5 inches wide and 4 inches long.

Elevation: 2,000 to 3,500 ft

Comments: Joshua trees got their common name from the Mormon settlers who likened the tree to the biblical prophet Joshua with his arms uplifted towards the sky in prayer.

Joshua trees can live to 300 years.

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

Many species of wildlife use Joshua trees. In places where Joshua trees are the only "trees" around, woodpeckers drill nest holes into the trunks, holes that are then used by other nesting birds in later years. Desert Night Lizards depend entirely on Joshua trees and other yuccas, living only under the bark and in the dead trunks of these species. Desert Woodrats often nest in the hollow trunks of dead Joshua trees.

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

During drought and other times of stress, Desert Woodrats sometimes chew off the leaves of Joshua Trees. Sometimes the cut leaves are left on the ground, other times they seem to have been chewed or eaten, and sometimes they are used to armor the Woodrat's nest.

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree leaves chewed off by a Desert Woodrat
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree leaves chewed off by a Desert Woodrat
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree leaves chewed off by a Desert Woodrat.
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) more to come ...
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) more to come ...

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 140424

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