There is a beautiful stretch of highway through one of Arizona’s deserts that travels through a forest. However, this forest is not made up of trees….
This forest is made up of plants called Joshua trees, which technically are not trees – they are a species of Yucca (Yucca brevifolia).
They grow slowly, approximately 1 1/2 inches per year, with the tallest specimen approximately 40 ft. tall. Joshua trees live to be hundreds of years old – some experts say that there are probably some that are over one thousand years old. It is difficult to date them as they do not have growth rings as trees do.
My husband and I were on our way from Phoenix to Las Vegas last weekend and I made him pull over so we could take pictures when we arrived at the Arizona Joshua Forest Scenic Road. The Joshua trees are truly magnificent and they thickly carpet certain areas of the Mojave desert and can be viewed in areas of California, Arizona and Nevada. They grew so thickly in certain areas.
Believe it or not, the Joshua tree is actually a member of the Lily family. Native Americans used the leaves to weave baskets and make sandals. Birds also make their home among the spiny leaves.
I usually advise people who live in the Sonoran Desert against planting Joshua trees in the landscape because they often struggle in our desert. They are used to growing at higher altitudes and are used to winter rainfall…not our winter & summer rainfall. The majority of the time, they do not thrive and ultimately die. They are very expensive to purchase because they are slow to grow, so I advise growing a different type of Yucca called Soaptree Yucca (Yucca elata), which thrives in our climate.
I must confess that I am guilty of being somewhat of a snob….I think that the Sonoran Desert, where I live, is the most beautiful desert in all the world and that all other deserts pale in comparison. I had visited the Mojave Desert a handful of times, but never really appreciated it’s beauty until now. It is full of lush, green vegetation and beautiful mountains.
Many of the hills are topped with stacked boulders. Ocotillo, Creosote, Saguaro and Palo Verde trees dot the hillsides.
I enjoyed our drive through Mojave Desert and can hardly wait for my next visit.
More information about the Joshua Tree National Park can be found here.
*I apologize that some of my photos are a bit blurry. My camera was having issues….