After a tumultuous week, let’s look at the Joshua Tree, the namesake for the national park where I’ve been this week.
The name “Joshua Tree” comes from Mormon settlers who crossed the Mohave in the mid-19th century. The tree branches reminded them of the biblical Joshua raising his hands up in prayer.
These trees only grow in or near the Mohave desert in the southwestern US. A single tree can be 40 feet high and have roots 36 feet deep. Undisturbed, a tree can live for hundreds of years; a few of them are over a thousand years old.
And yet, after all this time, they are one of the trees most threatened by the warming climate of our planet. Some experts say that over 90% of these trees could be gone by the end of this century. The one animal that is probably most responsible for distributing Joshua tree seeds throughout the current range (the giant ground sloth) died out in the Ice Age, so there is no way to for the trees to propagate northward as the southern parts of their current range heat up.
I can’t imagine Joshua Tree National Park without any Joshua trees, it’s just too sad a thought. And one more reason why climate change is so important for us to deal with now, and not put our heads in the sand.
… it seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna; life not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in spareness and simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave against the lifeless sand and barren rock.
Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire)