Have You Met the Joshua Tree?

To share information about the Antelope Valley’s special habitat areas or Significant Ecological Areas (SEAs), we are featuring a post from the #SEAWednesday posts on the Department of Regional Planning’s SEA blog. The Joshua Tree can be found in the Joshua Woodlands SEA and Antelope Valley SEA within the Antelope Valley. 

TImage of Joshua Treehe iconic Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) is the treasure of the Southern California high desert. The Joshua Tree is found in the Mojave Desert, which stretches from southeast California into parts of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Joshua Trees were named by the Mormons settlers in the early 1800s. The outstretched branches of the trees reminded the Mormons of their prophet, Joshua. Today, the Joshua Tree National Park is where the Mojave and Colorado desert ecosystems meet and where we go to see the strangely beautiful looking Joshua Trees.

Image of Burnt Joshua Tree with New Growth

The Joshua Tree is part of the agave family. It can grow up to 40 feet and life spans of 150 to 200 years!  Because the Joshua Trees are only found in the Mojave Desert, the health of the Joshua Trees are big indicators of the health of the Mojave Desert ecosystem. The survival of the trees exclusively depend on the Yucca Moth for pollination and the Yucca Moth depend on seeds of Joshua Trees for nourishment for the larvae. This special relationship between the two species is the key to thriving!

Joshua Trees can be found in Joshua Woodlands SEA and Antelope Valley SEA located in northeastern Los Angeles County. There is a pocket of Joshua Tree woodlands uncharacteristically growing in northwestern LA County, which is outside of the Mojave Desert range. This pocket is also designated as part of the Joshua Woodlands SEA. The resiliency of these trees can be seen after a wildfire. New growth can be seen sprouting from the base of burnt trunks of Joshua Trees.

Image of Joshua Tree FlowerJoshua Trees are vulnerable because of its limited range where it can grow and reliance on the Yucca Moth for reproducing. Well-timed rains are important for the growth of seedlings and winter freezes stimulate flowering. Threats to the Joshua Trees are wildfires, droughts, rising temperatures are detrimental to these unique trees that call Southern California its home.


Pictures: Joe Decruyenaere, Dan Hoffman

References: Access Science, National Park Service, Joe Decruyenaere

(Link to original blog post)

6 thoughts on “Have You Met the Joshua Tree?

  • December 14, 2018 at 12:39 am

    My wish would be for the County to work with some entity to grow and sell Joshua trees for landscaping, or work with someone who has one of the special digging machines that can take mature trees from areas where they are to be destroyed for building sites and make them available.

    • December 20, 2018 at 10:38 am

      Thank you for your comment! Unfortunately mature Joshua trees cannot be easily replanted as they do not survive the replanting very often… However, the County Forester does grow baby Joshua trees as well as other native species, and they’re free to the public!

      For more information, please check out our “Free Trees Available at LA County Forestry Nursery” blog post for contact information and location. The blog can be found at this web address:

  • June 14, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    What can someone do if their neighbor cuts down several Joshua trees (photo proof) to build a development?

    Can the County/Regional Planning investigate or not?

    Thank you

    • February 1, 2021 at 10:31 am

      Hi. I called the sheriffs when my neighbor did the same and refused to stop at my first warning, it’s illegal to cut down the joshua trees. It worked!


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