Yucca brevifolia is commonly known as Joshua tree. It is native to the Mojave Desert. It is very rare in home gardens because it is so extremely susceptible to rot with irrigation, or even where it gets more rain than it is accustomed to in the Mojave Desert. Besides, it is very difficult to work with, and even with impeccable maintenance, even the healthiest of specimens develop weirdly and unpredictably irregular form that too many find to be unappealing. Nonetheless, whether appealing or otherwise, whether in a landscape or in the wild, it is a fascinating species of Yucca. Rhody and I encountered these Joshua trees and many others west of Boron last Thursday.

1. Joshua tree is the tallest tree in this region, but does not get as tall as utility poles. The scarcity of moisture limits vegetation here. That is not wildlife in the lower right corner.

2. Zooming in on the specimen to the right in the previous picture reveals that there are many more in the distance. Many are solitary. Most live socially, in otherworldly forests.

3. If there were an exemplary Joshua tree, it might look something like this. The shabby specimen in the background to the right is also rather typical. They are weirdly variable.

4. These short and rigid leaves are extremely sharp! They look somewhat like the foliage of common giant yucca, but are very difficult to handle. Joshua tree is better in the wild.

5. Old foliage decays very slowly. It folds back and lingers on the limbs like this for many years. Joshua tree grows very slowly, so this foliage may have been like this for decades.

6. Trunks eventually shed deteriorated old leaves as they widen and develop this roughly textured exterior that resembles bark. Again, that is not wildlife in the lower left corner.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


27 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: Joshua Tree

    1. It is such a fascinating region, although few appreciate it. Most think of it as a long and boring drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. On this particular trip, I was impressed by the expansiveness of the Joshua tree forests, which I had not noticed in other regions.


    1. They are certainly weird trees. I did not meet them until I was in college. I wanted to grow a few on a dry ridge at home, but I knew that they would probably grow up fast, and then fall over as their roots rotted. I suppose I could try them anyway, and see what happens.

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  1. When I was cleaning out the attic last week I came across the photos we took on our America trip way back when. Joshua Tree National Park was one of the places we went. I put the photos aside to look at when I’d finished, now I’ve lost them again. If they don’t like too much moisture with you they wouldn’t have a snowball in hell’s chance here.

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    1. I grew a few seedlings here, with the intention of planting them on a dry ridge at home, but I suspect that they would have grown up fast and fallen over as their roots rotted. They did not survive even that long, as someone who did not know what they were discarded them. I have seen that ‘collectors’ grow them in pots in greenhouses in really foreign climates, such as in Denmark, but such specimens will never get the opportunity to grow as they naturally do. Besides, they are not exactly pretty plants for home gardens, even when healthy and happy. They are really at their best out in the wild.


    1. Beautiful?! Well, I suppose so. I find them to be fascinating out in the wild, but would be hesitant to put one in my own garden, even if one could survive and grow naturally here. They are wickedly spiny, and very difficult to work with. If I worked with just one, I would feel obligated to groom it, like I do with the common giant yucca. However, such grooming is impractical for Joshua tree.

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    1. Rhody ‘claimed’ one, but I suspect that he merely needed to do what little dogs need to do on long trips, or merely responded to messages left there by other dogs. I really do not know if he likes them. The lower portions of their trunks look like common tree trunks, so Rhody did not encounter any of the nasty foliage. Joshua tree is a species of Yucca, so is related to the common giant yucca. The species has a few varieties. There are other species of Yucca that resemble Joshua tree.

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      1. Rhody does that with any tree. I suspect that the Joshua tree that we got close to gets quite a bit of it, since it is the only tree around. Yucca elephantipes is the common giant yucca, which some who do not know better refer to as Joshua tree. Although related, it is completely different, and as you can see.

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    1. They are certainly compelling trees, although not the sort of thing that would be so appealing in home gardens. The foliage is wickedly spiny! Besides, they live only in desert regions. Where they get too much water, they grow up fast and then rot.
      I would like to get more ‘good’ pictures of the not wildlife, but he will not cooperate. He seems to be making a statement here by photobombing with his backside.


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