Joshua Tree National Park in the Morongo Basin is named after the plant that visually dominates the landscape: Yucca brevifolia, the Joshua Tree. According to the Park Website, with 700 species of vascular plants “Joshua Tree is renowned for its plant diversity. No wonder that when the area was first proposed for preservation in the early 1930s, the name suggested was Desert Plants National Park.”
Despite this diversity that delights many residents, the hardy local vegetation, beautifully adapted to its severe environment, does not strike the casual visitor as showy until spring. The wildflower displays in the Morongo Basin and the National Park are justly famous. Keep up on the season’s show at the Joshua Tree National Park Association Website.
The simple creosote bush, or greasewood, that characterizes so much of the lower elevations of the Basin is not nearly as humble as it appears. A creosote clonal ring near Lucerne Valley has been demonstrated to be one of the oldest living plants on earth at over 11,000 years old.
Unfortunately, as development encroaches on the Basin the local vegetation is threatened by loss of habitat, soil disturbance, and competition from invasive species.
Invasives such as the Sahara mustard and cheat grass are displacing native vegetation, disrupting natural systems, and leading to erosion and fire danger. Invasives are especially responsive to disturbed soil, such as is caused by excessive grading or off-road vehicles. Sometimes invasives can be inadvertently introduced by homeowners in their landscaping, such as with fountain grass. To learn more about invasives read MBCA Boardmember Pat Flanagan’s article, Invasion of Weeds! Find a list of problem invasives at the Mojave Weed Management Area website.
HOLD THE MUSTARD!:
MBCA launched the Hold the Mustard! campaign in 2005 to combat Sahara mustard, a highly aggressive invader that is crowding out native plants and adding dangerously to the fuel load. You can help; find out how here.
GRADING AND CLEAR-CUTTING:
Excessive grading and clear-cutting of property is unnecessarily destroying important and protected local vegetation, leading to erosion, invasives, and dust problems. MBCA has been active in efforts to update and enforce regulations to protect our native vegetation resource. Learn more about grading and clear-cutting issues, and how you can get involved, here.
What plants are appropriate to use in desert landscaping? You can learn a lot about water-smart landscaping from the Alliance for Water Awareness and Conservation.
LET’S GO NATIVE:
For a guide to landscaping with Morongo Basin natives, obtain a copy of the full-color “Let’s Go Native” brochure created by the Twentynine Palms Groundwater Guardian Team and available through MBCA. Contact MBCA