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Joshua trees in rare bloom across the Southwest

April 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
What's causing millions of the Mojave Desert's famous Joshua trees to bloom colorful greenish-white flowers is a mystery.

You can actually find Joshua trees all across the southwest U.S., not just at Joshua Tree National Park. You really can't miss them, because their look is unique.

"They have these multiple arms. They are interesting in that they sort of look Dr. Seussian," said Cameron Barrows, a research ecologist at the University of California, Riverside.

But Barrows says what's even more interesting this year is what's happening to the trees.

"Well it's more than interesting, it's probably unprecedented in anybody's recent memory anyway," said Barrows.

He's talking about the incredible blooms. It's something people up here say they've never seen before on Joshua trees.

Virginia Willis, a 15-year resident, says she has never seen this before.

"I don't know what happened this year, but it's been an incredible display," said Willis. "It doesn't make any sense, but I guess nature is that way, we don't have it all figured out yet."

Barrows says he thinks it might be a stress response by the trees after several years of drought. But the really strange thing is that it's happening all across the Southwest at the same time.

"We haven't figured out their language yet, but that's the challenge and that's the more interesting thing about doing good ecology," said Barrows.

Whatever the case, Barrows said these "once-in-a-lifetime blooms" won't be around for long, so if you'd like to come and check them out, your best bet is going to be trying to make it to the higher elevations of Joshua Tree National Park.


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