Palm Oasis on the San Andreas Fault

Brown Landscape with Punches of Green

I cannot seem to get over the difference in landscape between the mid-western and southwestern parts of the United States. Although both are beautiful in their own ways, I have to say that I prefer green over brown.

Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Yucca Valley, as well as the surrounding areas are nothing short of arid. Sand makes up any soil, and on the surface appears that is all there is. This is expected on a beach, but inland?  Yes, here it is expected, as the counties of San Bernardino and Riverside encompass parts of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. Sand is expected in deserts!

Geography and Topography

This resort area is ringed by mountains, with flat valleys in between.  The San Bernardino Mountains are to the north, with the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the east, the Santa Rosa Mountains to the South and the San Jacinto Mountains are to the west.  The infamous San Andreas fault runs through the area as well. As you can imagine, I found myself in a different world than the limestone bluffs, verdant coulees, and what’s left of our open prairies in the midwest. With different topography, geography, climate, and soil comes different flora and fauna.

Approaching an oasis of California Palms on the San Andreas Fault near the Mojave Desert.            © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018

California Palm Trees

Having always been enamored of the desert, I took a guided tour through Joshua Tree National Park. But, the park flora will be fodder for another post. First, we started out in an air-conditioned van and visited an oasis of California Palms (Botanical name: Washingtonia filifera) growing on the San Andreas Fault line. These palms are not what you would see in Florida or the Carolinas. They are indigenous to the Southwest United States and spring up where water bubbles up from a crack in the ground (fault-line). Thus, the area is called an oasis.  Most oases support groves of trees, which are fed by the available water reaching the ground surface through the faults.  If the fault moves in such a way that it closes, the water will cease to be available. We visited the palms in a place exactly like what is described. I found them fascinating with the shaggy skirt of dead leaves that extends naturally from the top of the tree to the ground.  Native Americans had many uses for the California palm oases, as they supported enough necessary elements of life to enable the creation of a village or home base.  Miners and other early settlers also found the palm oases invaluable.

Grove of California Palms growing in an oasis along the San Andreas Fault in California,              © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018.
The water seeps up from the ground and feeds the trees as well as other wildlife that lives in the ecosystem provided by the oasis.  New palms are also easily started from seeds falling on the wet ground.
Shag or skirt of the California Palm tree. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018
The palm fronts are hand like and dense. Dead fronds are pendulous and hang down forming the skirt of the palm tree. The trees are large and impressive.



Peeking through an opening in the grove out to the desert beyond.

California Palms and another type of palm tree, perhaps a common date palm?                                © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018

The palms thrive in the dry heat with a ready-made natural water source feeding their need. According to our tour guide, the area around Palm Springs is fed by the second largest aquifer in the United States!  You would not guess this by just looking around!

The California Palms are also propagated for decorative uses. Often the shag will be trimmed off for a more aesthetic appearance such as these trees (shown below) in downtown Palm Springs.


The California Palm was just one example of flora that was new to me during my visit to southern California. It’s obvious that they can thrive in the intense heat of the desert, given a little water from a crack in the earth’s crust!

Do you like palm trees or not? Why?

Next post: The Cacti of  Joshua Tree National Park. I hope you stop back!

4 thoughts

  1. Woa! Those are HUGE! I love palm trees because I associate them with holidays. I am more used to those which shed their leaves leaving a clean trunk, so these are interesting for their shagginess too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I, too, associate palm trees with being on holiday. But, we’ve never seen this type of palm, as far as I can recall. They also grow in Hawaii but I never remember seeing them there. I also am more familiar with those palms that have clean trunks. Thanks for stopping by!


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