In the 1840s the Mormons, who are a
religious group, traveled west searching for a new home. Many Mormons lived in
the state of Illinois. But they had been badly treated and finally were forced
to leave. As the Mormons traveled through the desert they became discouraged.
Then they saw a strange tree. The tree's branches stretched out like arms. The
Mormons thought the tree looked like Joshua, a hero from the Bible. The Mormons
thought the arms of the tree were telling them to continue on their way, so
they did. They found a new home in the state of Utah. In Utah they saw trees
like the one in the desert. They called them "Joshua trees."
The Joshua tree was very useful. The
Indians of the West used almost all its parts. They ate not only the fruit of
the tree, but also its seeds and white blossoms. They used its leaves for
shoes. From its roots they made baskets and colors for clothes.
Settlers in the West used the Joshua
tree for firewood and fences. Unfortunately, they often needed to cut down the
trees. Some of the trees were as tall as fifty feet. These trees were 700 or
800 years old. The Joshua tree grows very slowly. It grows only about one inch
By the beginning of the 1900s, most
Joshua trees had been cut down. People were sad that this strange tree had
almost disappeared. In 1936 the Joshua Tree National Monument was established
in California. It has many kinds of interesting desert plants, including, of
course, many Joshua trees. None of these Joshua trees are fifty feet. But
perhaps someday they will be.