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Citizen Science: Pollination Biology of Joshua Trees


Joshua trees are the most unique and recognizable plants of the Mojave Desert, but the most amazing thing about them may be their unusual pollination biology. Joshua trees are pollinated exclusively by two species of yucca moths – tiny grey moths that carry pollen to the trees in their mouths. The moths in turn reproduce by laying their eggs inside the Joshua tree flowers. Thus, both the moths and the Joshua trees each rely entirely on the other for reproduction. Understanding how this remarkable system originated represents an evolutionary puzzle. The answer might be found a lonely valley in central Nevada, where the eastern and western subspecies of Joshua tree meet, along with their respective yucca moth pollinators. This unusual site creates a ‘natural laboratory’ for studying how the moths and Joshua trees are each evolving and adapting to each other. During a three-day citizen science program, participants in this course will contribute to ongoing scientific research on the pollination of this most famous Mojave Desert species.

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Joshua Tree Gateway Communities, Palm Springs & Coachella Valley, Southern Utah, Inland Empire & Victor Valley, SoCal Mountains & Pass Areas