On the way back from California, I decided to detour through Joshua Tree National Park in hopes of seeing spring scenes. Coming in from the north or northwest, I could immediately see the Joshua Trees that give the park its name. These trees that could have sprung from the mind and pen of Dr. Seuss are part of the agave family, a rather large family encompassing a wide variety of plant appearances. Despite its funky look, the tree parts are useful. Native tribes made the tough leaves into baskets and sandals and ate the flower buds and raw or roasted seeds.

“The desert is so huge, and the horizon so distant, that the make a person feel small, and as if he should remain silent.” ~Paulo Coelho

A wealthy California woman, Minerva Hamilton Hoyt’s vision and perseverance in conserving desert habitats lead to the setting aside of 795,156 acres or 3,218 square kilometers, first designated as a National Monument and then a National Park. I’d say it’s a national treasure.

“Water, water, water… There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount…unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.” ~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

There are an unfathomable number of trees in the northern part of the park, reminding me of photos of the African savannas, albeit with Joshua “trees” instead of the trees found in Africa. Standing each in solitary splendor rather than close together as do the trees in a forest, they stretch as far as the eye can see.

“Noontime here is like a drug. The light is psychedelic, the dry electric air narcotic. To me the desert is stimulating, exciting, exacting” ~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Reproduction of Joshua trees is anything but simple.

Spring rains may bring clusters of white-green flowers on long stalks at branch tips. Like all desert blooms, Joshua trees depend on just the perfect conditions: well-timed rains, and for the Joshua tree, a crisp winter freeze. Researchers believe that freezing temperatures may damage the growing end of a branch and stimulate flowering, followed by branching. You may notice some Joshua trees grow like straight stalks; these trees have never bloomed—which is why they are branchless! In addition to ideal weather, the pollination of flowers requires a visit from the yucca moth. The moth collects pollen while laying her eggs inside the flower ovary. As seeds develop and mature, the eggs hatch into larvae, which feed on the seeds. The tree relies on the moth for pollination and the moth relies on the tree for a few seeds for her young—a happy symbiosis. The Joshua tree is also capable of sprouting from roots and branches. Being able to reproduce vegetatively allows a much quicker recovery after damaging floods or fires, which may kill the main tree.

Many birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects depend on the Joshua tree for food and shelter. Keep your eyes open for the yellow and black flash of a Scott’s oriole busy making a nest in a yucca’s branches. At the base of rocks you may find a wood rat nest built with spiny yucca leaves for protection. As evening falls, the desert night lizard begins poking around under the log of a fallen Joshua tree in search of tasty insects. ~from the park website

Tell me this doesn’t look like a giant artichoke!

However as the bloom progresses, it looks for all the world like some sort of alien creature best left well alone.

“If you spend enough time in the desert, you will hear it speak.” ~Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death

Eventually though, it looks much more attractive. Not all the trees were in bloom but there were enough to look good. My goal was to find one that was small enough that I could a) get a good photo of the bloom at its artichoke beginning and b) get a decent photo of the mature bloom. The problem for the former was not only finding a tree that was small enough but that was in a location where I could pull over enough to be off the road.

“But in the desert, in the pure clean atmosphere, in the silence – there you can find yourself. And unless you begin to know yourself, how can you even begin to search for God?” ~Father Dioscuros

I admit I did much more driving than walking because I wanted to get home that evening. I made stop after stop for photos (oh, did I wish I’d taken my Nikon for that short California weekend) and just to enjoy the amazing scenery. We’ll have to plan a trip where we stay near the park for a few days, taking time to hike and explore. But as you’ll see over the next days, the three hours were hours well spent in soul-refreshing beauty.

Jo’s Monday Walk 3.26.23

  1. restlessjo says:

    Wonderful photos, Janet. I really enjoyed our walk in the desert. Thank you!

  2. eklastic says:

    Amazing, Janet!

  3. billgncs says:

    that place never fails to amaze !

  4. great place to visit, so different than most places, with the vegetation been so , can’t find an enlish word for what I am thinking, I love how you framed the first shot.

  5. Wow this is definitely a natural treasure. I’d love to visit this Californian desert.

  6. bushboy says:

    So good Janet 🙂

  7. Superb macro and perfect clarity.
    A visual treat.
    Thank you Janet for sharing.

  8. It’s beautiful! It did look sort of like an artichoke. The soft colors of the pedals are lovely. Was that an agave plant or in its family of plants?

  9. What a fantastic place, Janet! I loved all the pictures.

    • Thanks so much, Sue. You’d love it there. There’s so much to see that’s unusual and just flat out beautiful but in a very different way from the Midwest obviously.

  10. tootlepedal says:

    Good pictures in spite of not having your Nikon. It looks like a place well worth a longer visit.

  11. Resa says:

    Stunning shots, Janet. Thank you for the Joshua Tree info. It’s an amazing plant.

  12. Hammad Rais says:

    Wonders of the desert. Thanks for taking me along 🙂

  13. Tyler james says:

    It’s beautiful! It did look sort of like an artichoke. The soft colors of the pedals are lovely. Was that an agave plant or in its family of plants?

  14. Amy says:

    These are great photos, Janet. The bloom captures, wow!

  15. Wind Kisses says:

    You caught the sequence. That is hard to do, as you say, because the best plants are not always where the best parking is. There is some dirt roads you can get out to next time where they are abundant. I loved that you included the Abbey quotes. He was clearly a man before his time and his predictions were right on. It’s a nice drive though park for those who cant get out and about, and quite adventurous for others.

    • What I want to do next time is to stay somewhere near the park and then be able to spend two or three days just exploring parts of the park that aren’t right by the road. I didn’t have that kind of time on this trip but it was still just a wonderfully fulfilling three hours in the park.