Joshua Tree 2017

What is the origin of the name Joshua Tree?

The Joshua tree’s upraised branches impressed Mormon pioneers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the 1850s.  The tree reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.  The Mormons coined the tree’s name, and it stuck, unlike other less intriguing Joshua tree names: Cabbage Tree, Spanish Bayonet Tree, Yucca Palm, Yucca Tree, or Tree Lily.

Joshua trees’ contribution to the Mojave Desert ecosystems

Joshua trees are an essential part of the Mojave Desert ecosystems, providing food and habitat for many other living things.  Dozens of birds’ species nest in the Joshua tree, and the desert night lizard lives in the trees’ fallen branches.  Numerous animals feed on Joshua tree flowers, fruit, and seeds. 

What are the origins of Joshua Tree National Park’s rock formation?

Massive rock piles cover the park’s landscape.  They are arranged in such a way that it seems more like intentional art than natural erosion.  These unusual rock formations were created by billions of years of heating and cooling in the earth’s crust, earthquakes, and wind and water erosion.  This short-animated video illustrates the complex geologic processes that created the park’s iconic boulders.