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Giants in The Desert

If a tree lives long enough in the right conditions, with a lifespan measured in centuries rather than years, it can grow so large that it dwarfs the rest of its kind.

There is a Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) growing near California City that fits this description. It is simply a magnificent specimen, an amazingly large version of the familiar Joshuas that populate the Mojave Desert east of the Tehachapi Mountains.

Different environments have what biologists call indicator species — distinctive animals or plants that are associated with that particular ecoregion. These characteristic species help define the areas where they are found. The Sonoran Desert has saguaro cactus, for example, while the Great Basin Desert has Great Basin sagebrush. In the Mojave Desert, which covers more than a third of Southern California, the indicator species is the Joshua tree… read more >

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