January 16, 2014

Joshua Tree endangered?

I usually stick to Virginia issues but a recent visit to Joshua Tree National Park sparked my interest in endangered trees. Most folks don't know that the trees that remind you of Dr. Seuss in California's Mojave Desert are threatened by more than brush fires. It seems that the increased amount of nitrogen from cars and general Los Angeles pollution drops onto the desert floor and adds more fertilizer than the plants need. Nitrogen also supports the growth of grasses that never grew in this area. Lightning strikes used to zap one Joshua Tree. Now the fire spreads to nearby grasses and voila, you have a large brushfire.

Joshua Trees also need a cold snap in order to flower. Warmer winters mean less flowering, even with the help of a unique yucca moth. And these magnificent trees need a hundred years to mature, growing VERY slowly. 

Our local loblolly pines are succumbing to something in addition to hurricanes. And local oaks are dying more often too. Even orange trees in Florida have a bacteria that is killing them quickly. Too bad that the trees cannot talk and that Dr. Seuss's Lorax must speak for the trees.