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Joshua Tree Burning: Iconic Tree Lost at National Park

Dec 03, 2015 04:22 PM EST
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At Joshua Tree National Park, where two deserts meet in south-central California, one of the iconic Joshua trees recently burned on the roadside.

An engine from San Bernardino Fire was called, and officials found that visitors had slowed the fire with water bottles. The professional crew from the park and the fire department put out the flames before they could spill into the desert. Then the crew cut down the tree at the base so that it would not fall, according to a release.

"These iconic trees are the tangible symbol of the park, and of the California desert. The loss of any Joshua tree saddens me," said Superintendent David Smith in the release.

The fire was determined to have been caused by humans, and it is under investigation. There were no reported storms or lightning in the area.

Joshua Tree National Park comprises 1,234 square miles, and its western edge is about two hours east of Los Angeles. The Mojave and Colorado desert ecosystems come together in the park.

The Joshua tree itself is also known as Yucca brevifolia. It is related to the yucca and has limbs that reach for the skies. Mormon settlers who saw it in the mid-1800s thought it resembled the Biblical story in which Joshua reaches up in prayer.

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-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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