Joshua Tree

The Joshua Tree - Yucca Brevifolia

The Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) is a member of the Yucca genus and native to Southwestern America. It is found mostly in California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. It is considered a Mojave Desert plant.

It is also known as the yucca tree, tree yucca, and yucca palm. Yucca palms are noted for their long, narrow trunks and their fronds exploding from the top of the tree, similar to a palm tree. Hence the name, yucca palms.

The yucca tree got the name “Joshua tree” from Mormon pioneers. Upon seeing the plant, they were reminded of the Biblical story of Joshua, raising his hands to the sky in prayer.

Whatever name you know it by, it is a popular sight in the desert, but is not so popular in yards and gardens. There is no reason why it shouldn’t be, though.

Yucca Brevifolia Characteristics

yucca brevifolia, yucca palms, yucca tree

The yucca tree has a top-heavy branch system with short, bayonet-shaped leaves. The leaves are a very dark green and taper to a sharp point. The branches will expand outward and upward as the tree grows, but only to a limited extent, never becoming a canopy. They can grow as tall as 50 feet!

The tree also flowers and produces fruit. The flowers bud in early spring (February through April) and are a pale to creamy white. The blooms will last until the early summer, when the fruit begins appearing.

The fruit begins as a light green oval, shaped somewhat like a mango, and begins to darken as the fruit ripens. The fruit is known as “palm fruit” and can be eaten raw or dehydrated and eaten later. It can also be turned into jelly or jam.

Like all yuccas, it is pollinated solely by the yucca moth. The moth transfers pollen from one plant’s stamen to another plant's stigma. In the process she (yep, the girls do the work) lays her eggs in the flowers where the larvae are protected and have a food source.

Is The Joshua Tree Going Extinct?

There is some concern that wild yucca palms will be wiped out due to a lack of their seeds being transplanted. The seeds come from the palm fruit, which when ripe, falls to the ground and bursts open. The seeds don’t travel very far.

You might think birds or rodents would work at carrying the seeds away, but because the seeds have no protective outer layer, when they are eaten most die during the digestion process.

Here is additional information about Joshua tree extinction.

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Growing Your Own Yucca Palms

Yucca trees grow quickly and easily in the right environment. It’s important to note where you are located because they do best in an arid environment. However, if you’re in the right place, the Joshua tree can add great depth and style to your landscaping.

As you can see, the Joshua tree is a really stately and eye-catching plant. And if you don't have room in your garden you can always go visit them at the Joshua Tree National Park. Win-win!

Related Pages:
Blue Yucca
Bright Edge Yucca
Color Guard Yucca
Red Yucca
Soaptree Yucca
Spanish Bayonet