Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Last Christmas Gift: A Joshua Tree

A last Christmas scene...

Some of my family lives in the desert near Joshua Tree National Park. We hadn't been there in the past, and expected one of those California-style cookie cutter housing developments imposed on a desert landscape that doesn't really reflect the nature of the desert. Arriving late in the day, I was delighted to find that there was an unspoiled Joshua Tree forest adjacent to their lot. The sun was setting, so I took off across the desert to get a few pictures.

Joshua Trees are a species almost unique to California (I think a few spill over into Arizona and Nevada), and they are a semi-tropical holdover from a different climate and ecosystem. Their seeds do not have a readily available method of dispersal so the tree isn't invading new habitats as the climate grows warmer. It has been suggested that prior to 13,000 years before the present their seeds were spread by giant ground sloths, who were known to eat the fruits of the tree. No animal performs the task today.
The tree got its name from the early Mormon colonizers in the region, who likened the branches to the arms of Joshua of the Bible raised in prayer. They are a unique part of the flora that defines the Mojave Desert.

Have a good Christmas night!
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