Joshua Tree

Common Names:
Joshua Tree
Scientific name:
Yucca brevifolia
Subspecies | Variants:
Yucca brevifolia var. herbertii, Yucca brevifolia var. jaegeriana, Yucca jaegeriana
Elevation range:
1,750 - 7,100 ft
Flowering Months:
March, April, May
Height | Length:
6-30 ft.
Life Cycle | Lifeform:
Tree
Pollinator or food source for:
Notes:
Reproduces vegetatively, Food for insects & larvae, Food for birds, Nesting place for birds
Ancestral Usage:
food, clothing/shoes, textile dye, basketry/tools, shelter
State Occurrences:
Desert region:
Mojave

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Joshua Tree in the desert

Yucca brevifolia is the largest member of the yucca genus, growing to heights of almost 50 ft. Leaves are daggerlike and borne in rounded clusters. This tree does not have growth rings which makes determining its age difficult. There is some disagreement among scientists as to its longevity, some estimating oldest individuals at a few hundred years, others at closer to 1,000 yrs. Joshua Tree National Park | April 2015

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Joshua Tree  in the desert

The inflorescence of Yucca brevifolia is a large rounded spike made up of clusters of white, waxy rounded flowers. They do not bloom every year, but depend on a specific set of climatic conditions to do so. When those are met, it can generate the big white blooms on nearly every tree in a particular landscape. Pipes Canyon, CA | March 2005

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Joshua Tree in the desert

Yucca brevifolia can form rather dense forests in some locations, but in this photo are somewhat scattered. Joshua Tree National Park | April 2014

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Joshua Tree  in the desert

Leaves of Yucca brevifolia fold back on themselves and stay in place, giving it a shaggy appearance. Lizards and insects live among the dead leaves, using it as cover. Pipes Canyon | April 2007

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Joshua Tree in the desert

Yucca brevifolia awaits the storm. Joshua Tree National Park | April 21, 2015

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Joshua Tree in the desert

Yucca brevifolia trees have shallow root systems, going only a few feet deep but spreading to perhaps 30 ft. in diameter around it.  Joshua Tree National Park | April 7, 2014

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Joshua Tree in the desert

Closer view of Yucca brevifolia preparing to bloom above pink-brown layers of bracts. Note the black-tipped leaves, which are quite sharp and painful if you inadvertently stab yourself with them. Pipes Canyon, CA | March 2008

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Joshua Tree in the desert

A large individual Yucca brevifolia, with flowers at the end of nearly every branch. Burns Canyon, CA | March 2008

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Joshua Tree in the desert

Fruit of Yucca brevifolia is a large oblong capsule measuring 2-4 inches long and 2 in. in diameter. Seeds are flat and black, stacked together inside fruit. Fruits tend to remain on trees with erect flower stalks, unless rodents or birds dislodge them. Pipes Canyon, CA | March 2013

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Joshua Tree  in the desert

Silhouette of Yucca brevifolia at sunset. This tree branches into many fantastically interesting forms. Pipes Canyon | August 2011

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Joshua Tree  in the desert

Yucca brevifolia require a winter freeze in order to bloom. This snowfall occurred in late spring at 4,500 ft. elevation. Pipes Canyon | May 2010