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Spiky Leaves of the Joshua Tree


As its latin name, Yucca brevifolia, shows, the Joshua Tree is really a Yucca plant, but its tree-like stature gives it its common names of Joshua tree, yucca palm, tree yucca, and palm tree yucca.

It is an evergreen plant with dark green, bayonet-shaped leaves, forming a dense spiral at the apex of the stems. The edges of the leaves are white and serrated.  It brings forth creamy white flowers in spring providing there has been rain and a winter freeze.

It is native to southwestern North America in the states of California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada, where it is confined mostly to the Mojave Desert between 400 and 1,800 meters in elevation. It thrives in the open grasslands of Queen Valley and Lost Horse Valley in Joshua Tree National Park, one of my very favourite places in the United States. I haven’t yet seen the Joshua trees in flower, which must be quite a sight, so I have made a note to make my next trip there in spring one year, and soon.


Its somewhat unusual common name of Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s upraised branches reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.

Linked to Festival of Leaves.

3 replies »

  1. That’s a funny tree, I haven’t seen anything like this before… Thanks for giving us a little bit of biology lesson – it’s always great to see so many different plants – and for taking part this week, I really enjoyed your pictures!!! xoxo


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