ST. GEORGE, Utah – Joshua trees are blooming in unprecedented numbers across the southwestern United States, and there's no clear reason why.
"They're flowering everywhere," says Dixie State University botanist Del Smith. "It's an uncommon thing"
Joshua trees grow in abundance throughout the Mojave Desert. Their yellowish-green blossoms can vary in number. Smith says it depends on the year.
"They've flowered brilliantly here this year, last year they didn't flower at all," says Smith. "The year before they flowered, so it's not an every year thing."
Without a clear pattern, Smith says botanists have had to rely on their own theories to explain the phenomenon.
"Some believe that it's drought. Some plants tend to flower when they are stressed," says Smith. "That's their mode of reproduction so they'll reproduce in the event that stress is involved."
Others say it's response to climate conditions. Research is ongoing, but Smith says it could be a long time before we truly understand the decision-making of the Joshua tree.
"There are some things that are involved like the cold and the rain, at the right times and in the right amounts," says Smith. "It would take several, maybe decades of data to really know for sure why they do what they do when they do it."
Regardless the reason, desert explorers Laur and Nan Bullock say it's the most impressive Joshua Tree showing they've seen.
"We've never seen that many blooms," says Laur Bullock. "They're all over and as we came down on the over side of the road the Joshua trees are real thick and they're greener this year than we've ever noticed."
The blooms will last for a few more weeks, but can wilt quickly in the desert heat.