The Joshua tree is one of the most beloved and famous of desert plants. This unusual, photogenic plant stands out in the desert landscape of the Mojave. In fact, the Mojave is the only place in the world where the Joshua Tree can be found. The trees stand from 15 to 40 feet tall, take 50 to 60 years to mature, and can live for as long as 150 years. So when see one of these plants standing tall among the cholla and other thorny shrubs, you know you're looking at many, many decades of slow but determined growth.
You're also looking at the work of a single moth species.
According to DesertUSA, "Joshua trees (and most other yuccas) rely on the female pronuba Moth (Tegeticula) for pollination. No other animal visiting the blooms transfers the pollen from one flower to another...Without the moth's pollination, the Joshua tree could not reproduce, nor could the moth, whose larvae would have no seeds to eat. Although old Joshua trees can sprout new plants from their roots, only the seeds produced in pollinated flowers can scatter far enough to establish a new stand."
In 2014, 1.6 million people visited Joshua Tree National Park, many of whom came specifically to see these amazing and unusual plants. The sight is well worth the trip!
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