February is the perfect time of the year to visit Joshua Tree National Monument, located a few km from Palm Desert. Finally, after many visits in the area, we decided it was time to check it out. We arrived just in time to hear the chat from the Ranger. Mormon pioneers are said to have named this species “Joshua” tree because it mimicked the Old Testament prophet Joshua waving them with upraised arms on toward the promised land.
The Joshua Trees are not cacti but a members of the agave family. The inside is fibrous and has no growth rings making it hard to know how old it is. They grow 2 to 3 inches a year, take 50 to 60 years to mature and they can live 150 years.
The Joshua Tree has bell-shaped blooms, 1.25 to 1.5 inches large, each with creamy yellow -green sepals, crowded into 12 to 18 inch. It reminds me of an artichoke.
The park includes parts of two deserts. The higher Mojave Desert and Lower Colorado Desert. Each have ecosystem whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation. In the park, we saw rock formations formed more than 100 million years ago from cooling of magma beneath the surface into monzogranite with rectangular joints. Groundwater then filtered through the joints to erode away the corners and edges to create rounded stones . The boulders define the park landscape and are popular with rock climbers.
Inside the park , there are many interesting areas to explore. Short trails here and there. We enjoyed Cholla Cactus Garden. The “jumping cholla” is an arborescent (tree-like) plant with one low-branching trunk. It often grows to heights of 4 m (13 ft), with drooping branches of chained fruit . The stems are light green and are strongly tuberculated. The tubercles (small, wart-like projections on the stems) measuring 6 to 9 mm. Together, the plants form fantastic looking forests that may range over many hectares.
We also saw some ocotillo plants . Ocotillo is not a true cactus . For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although closer examination reveals that the stems are partly green. With rainfall, the plant quickly becomes lush with small (2–4 cm), ovate leaves , which may remain for weeks or even months. We were right at the start of the season to see it with colorful flowers.
We enjoyed very much our day in the park. It was interesting to discover this part of California.
Thanks for reading. On my next post, I will share with you other places we enjoyed around Palm Desert.