It would’ve been called something else. Because Mormons named the plant. From desertusa.com: “Mormon pioneers are said to have named this species ‘Joshua’ Tree because it mimicked the Old Testament prophet Joshua waving them, with upraised arms, on toward the promised land.”
It’s really interesting to me how much of the West Mormon pioneers helped shaped. I never thought about it much until moving to California. I’ve been exploring different areas down here, going to a lot of historical spots, and I’m always surprised when I see mention of LDS pioneers. I don’t know why; I guess in Washington State there just weren’t many pioneers? Or maybe I just never visited any historical spots.
Yesterday I drove up north to the west end of the Mojave (I think that’s where I was—near Palmdale), and I stopped in a field to take pictures of a bunch of Joshua Trees. I love these plants.
On our way home, we went past a bunch of huge rocks called Mormon Rocks. There’s a small park there with plaques and a trail, explaining that Mormon pioneers took shelter by the rocks when travelling through the area.
When I visited Las Vegas last year, I was surprised to find out Mormons were the first to settle in that area. I guess I should do some reading about Mormon pioneers in the southwest! Anyone got any books to recommend? I’d love to be able to visit these places and know about the people who were there.
Also, I think it’s funny that the pioneers thought of the trees as waving to them. The desert vegetation really lends itself to anthropomorphism. The pioneers were pretty optimistic, though. I’d be more inclined to think of these trees as gnarled old creatures trying to get me.