Reminiscing on Joshua Tree

In late July 2013, several friends and I traveled to Palm Springs, California for the annual American Society of Horticultural Science conference.  During a low-key afternoon, Allison, Halley, Hunter, Jenn, and I piled into a car (with two gallons of water just in case!) to trek to Joshua Tree National Park. I had heard that it would be one of the most surreal landscapes I had ever seen, but I had no idea how touching the experience would be. The iconic plant was the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), named for the story in the Bible of Joshua raising his spear to the sky.

Around this time of the year when the sun is bearing down and the dry wind blows some dust in your face, it takes me back to that searing desert. But, what’s the point at looking at a landscape so foreign to many of our gardens? For me as a budding horticulturist, it made me aware that there is a plant for every place, even if conditions are ruthless. This desert reminds me that come the onslaught of summer there are still plants that will perform well for us in the heat and the drought. We just have to look for them.

Enjoy the photos as I reminisce about our trip.

Pretty bleak, huh? But, that's part of the magic of Joshua Tree. That in the absence of our archetypical landscapes you feel transported to another planet. It touches your soul.

Pretty bleak, huh? But, that's part of the magic of Joshua Tree. That in the absence of our archetypical landscapes you feel transported to another planet. It touches your soul.

Fouquieria splendens (ocotillo) doing the wave in the desert

Fouquieria splendens (ocotillo) doing the wave in the desert

A close up of the cracked ocotillo branches

A close up of the cracked ocotillo branches

In one part of Joshua Tree National Park, there was a cholla garden.

In one part of Joshua Tree National Park, there was a cholla garden.

Chollas look like a plants that grow teddy bear arms and legs. You almost want to give them a squeeze. Almost.

Chollas look like a plants that grow teddy bear arms and legs. You almost want to give them a squeeze. Almost.

 
While some Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) were still climbing toward the heavens...

While some Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) were still climbing toward the heavens...

 
...others had fallen to the earth. Throughout the park we read about how climate change was killing the trees.

...others had fallen to the earth. Throughout the park we read about how climate change was killing the trees.

At one pull off, we found rocks that looked like weathered marshmallows, turned a perfect golden brown after slow eons of roasting. (Sorry, black crispers. Slow and brown is still the best.)

At one pull off, we found rocks that looked like weathered marshmallows, turned a perfect golden brown after slow eons of roasting. (Sorry, black crispers. Slow and brown is still the best.)

 
Not everything was brown. We found a few Datura along side the road at twilight that hadn’t quite opened yet.

Not everything was brown. We found a few Datura along side the road at twilight that hadn’t quite opened yet.

 
 
With the arrival of night, we left the park with the silhouettes of the Joshua trees standing stolid against the sunset. They looked like spiked lightning bolts piercing the sky. I have never experienced such a landscape, and I look forward to when I return.

With the arrival of night, we left the park with the silhouettes of the Joshua trees standing stolid against the sunset. They looked like spiked lightning bolts piercing the sky. I have never experienced such a landscape, and I look forward to when I return.