The Joshua Tree is also known as the tree yucca or Yucca brevifolia. It can grow to a height of 30 feet with a huge 3 inch diameter trunk. The younger trunks can be covered with dead leaves. As this plant gets older the bark will be furrowed with deep grooves and can be from a grey to brown in color. This bark can also be corky looking and have the same texture when touched.
The flowers can be bell shaped white to greenish white and around 2 1/2 inches long. These will grow from stalks that will begin at the ends of each branch. These will be in a tight cluster that will not open all the way. These will be followed at the end of the season by large oval fruits that can reach 4 inches. The blooming period is from March to April and will grow from 2,000 to 3,500 foot elevations. These plants like a very rocky terrain. They will grow on rocky plains and hillsides. It will however, not bloom every year, this is dictated by the amount of rainfall as well as the temperature.
The leaves can be either a really light to dark green that are very long and narrow. The tips like most in the Agave family are pointed with teeth on the margins. These appear as a rosette at the ends of each branch.
My personal experience with this plant is limited. I have made cordage with the leaves as with most of the yuccas. This plant also has Saponins and can be used as a soap. In most cases I prefer to use the leaves for this. It is absolutely pointless to dig this plant up and destroy it for this purpose. It is also highly protected in the State of Arizona. Messing with this plant will get you in serious doo doo. To make a soap from the leaf all you really need is a stone and a good work space. I find that pounding the leaves on a flat stone works really well to break up the hard outer covering. Once this is done simply scrape this covering off of both sides and work the leaf in some water. You will notice that suds will begin to form. These suds can be used to wash your body, hair, and even clothing. These same leaves when collected in huge quantities can be used as a fish poison. The dead leaves on the trunks I have worked into a good tinder. This works very well and will burn by catching a spark from a ferro rod or by using in a tinder bundle. These fibers can also be used in making mats, baskets, sandals, and a host of other items.
Birds and in some cases rodents will live in this plant. Birds will burrow into the trunks to make their nests. The blooms of the Joshua tree as with the other plants in the Agave family will attract a variety of insects. A lot of these can be collected and cooked up as a protein source. This is a good plant to look for during a survival situation for this reason. The edibility of this plant is much like other yuccas as well. The fruits can be roasted or boiled and eaten. The young stalks can be cooked by being roasted or boiled then eaten. The flowers can also be cooked the same way.