A couple weeks ago I shared some photos of wildflowers from my trip to Death Valley National Park. Since we were in California for National Parks week, we figured we might as well visit Joshua Tree National Park while we were at it. We were perhaps a little bit different from the normal crowd that visits Joshua Tree – we’re no rock climbers, mind you – but we (and probably especially me) once again enjoyed the diversity of plant life we found there.

Naturally we saw many of the namesake Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia), but to my surprise they weren’t exactly ubiquitous across all areas of the park. I’m not sure if elevation is the only factor in where they are found, but they were definitely most abundant around the 4000 ft above sea level elevation mark. Though its name implies that it is a “tree”, it is not woody, nor does it have growth rings. Rather, it’s fibrous inside because it grows from layers and layers of leaves.

Yucca brevifolia, Joshua tree, Joshua Tree National Park

The Park’s namesake Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

We also saw lots of cactus; beavertail cactus like at Death Valley, mound cactus, barrel cactus. There is even a cactus garden in the Park that is entirely teddy bear cholla cactus (Cylindropuntia bigelovii). Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s definitely no teddy bear I would want to hug.

teddy bear cholla, cylindropuntia bigelovii

The cholla cactus garden. Again, I’m not sure if they are elevation-bound, or perhaps it is a certain soil type here, but this was the most abundant patch of cholla we saw.


cholla cactus flower, teddy bear cholla flower, teddy bear cholla cactus, cylindropuntia bigelovii

A close up of one of the cholla flowers.


teddy bear cholla cactus, cholla cactus garde, cholla, cylindropuntia bigelovii

My 6’3″ husband demonstrating how tall the cholla can get.


echinocereus mojavensis, Mojave mound cactus, cactus with scarlet flowers

This Mojave mound cactus (Echinocereus mojavensis) was probably my favorite of the cactus we saw.

Near the cactus garden is an ocotillo patch (Fouquieria splendens). Not actually a cactus, it has adapted to only grow leaves after sufficient rainfall but otherwise remains dormant.

Ocotillo patch, Ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens

My 5’4″ self demonstrating how tall the ocotillo can get.


ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens

A close-up of the brilliant red ocotillo flowers.

Besides cactus, and cactus-look alikes, we also saw palm trees, more phacelia, interesting shrubs like the paperbag plant, and all sorts that I either didn’t take a picture of (shocking!) or I can’t remember their names.

A Phacelia species (different than the kind we saw at Death Valley, but I'm not sure which one it is).

A Phacelia species (different than the kind we saw at Death Valley, but I’m not sure which one it is).


California Fan Palm, Washingtonia filifera

Desert oases are real! Something about the geolgoy in the area of these springs allows palms like these California Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera) to grow.


Paperbag plant, Salazaria mexicana

Possibly one of the more unique plants we discovered was this paperbag plant (Salazaria mexicana).


What are some of your favorite wildflowers? Desert or mountainous, coastal or inland, I like to see (and wish I knew) them all!