A tribute to one very special Joshua Tree
Is any other symbol of the Mojave Desert as instantly recognizable as the Joshua tree? They’re arguably one of the most otherworldly elements of a landscape that’s actually played other planets in the movies. And that, combined with the fact that they grow pretty much here and only here, makes me feel a special sense of loyalty toward Joshua trees in general.
I’ve learned a lot about Yucca brevifolias over the past few years, primarily from my best friend Teddy, who’s a bit of a research junkie at heart. I’ve learned about where they’ll grow (in the Mojave Desert between 1800′ and 5000′ in elevation) and that they’re pollinated by the Yucca moth, the larvae of which feed on the trees’ seeds.
Fun fact: A Joshua tree will actually kill its own flower if it determines too many moth eggs have been laid in it. There’s a pretty interesting piece on the relationship between the trees and Yucca moths here and just as a side note, the Joshua Tree Genome Project is fascinating as a whole. I’d encourage you to check out their site.
Even without knowing anything at all about these plants though, how can you not love the individuality of each one? It seems like the only predictable thing about their growth pattern is that it can’t be predicted. I mean sure, you can forecast about how tall one might get based on where it’s growing; bigger ones down in California and little tiny guys up in the Pahranagat Valley. Thank you again, Teddo. But how many branches will show up and which way they’ll grow? Good luck. More often than not it just looks like they’re having an internal competition to see which one can look the most peculiar.
The thing is though, every so often you’ll come across a Joshua tree with such a unique structure that it just can’t be ignored. It’s the one you’ll always remember, for its distinctive form among the most distinctive of forms, for its simple and striking beauty, for its outright singularity.
I shall think of you until the end of time, you silly, rogue soul.