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A Tour of Joshua Tree National Park

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A Tour of Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree, stone and tree
(c) 2000 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com (fair use policy)

Joshua Tree National Park is a wonderland of desert geology and desert geography. The photos in this tour were taken in early spring.

The rock-walled Lost Horse Valley hosts the Mojave Desert's finest grove of Joshua trees, a species of yucca, Yucca brevifolia (short-leafed yucca), with a treelike form. The leaves are stiff and extremely sharp. The Cahuilla tribe called it humwichawa.

The Mormon pioneers named the tree after the Bible's book of Joshua. It's an interesting part of the Bible, Joshua 8:18–29. Joshua led a Hebrew army in a deadly attack on the desert city of Ai following the Lord's command: "Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai; for I will give it into your hand." Joshua's men took Ai and burned it to ruins, threw the king's body down at the city gate, "and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day."

In fact, the book of Joshua has stones prominently featured throughout it. So the name "Joshua tree" surely derives from the stony landscape of the Mojave as well as the trees' outstretched arms and javelin-tip leaves.

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