What’s a Joshua Tree?

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A joshua tree in Joshua Tree National Park

How cool is this tree?! The proper name is Yucca brevifolia, and the tree is a member of the Agave family. Driving in, you see them growing everywhere. The picture above is a great looking tree. Some trees simply grow like straight stalks; these trees have never bloomed which explains why they are branchless. The Joshua tree requires just the right conditions (well-timed rains and a crisp winter freeze), as well as a visit from the yucca moth for the pollination of flowers. 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. We stopped to take photos of the trees and the rock formations, but our ultimate destination today was to hike Ryan Mountain. It was a 3 mile hike offering 360 degree views from the summit. The weather going up was perfect at 71F (21C), but coming down as the sun was setting, I could feel the chill. The temperature had dropped to 56F. We hope to start our day much earlier tomorrow, and hope the weather stays warm (it’s supposed to be overcast). The ranger suggested hiking out to Barker’s Dam early in the morning so we can have a higher chance of spotting the big-horn sheep. I’ll let you know what wildlife, if any, we find.

Hiking up Ryan Mountain

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