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April 02, 2019

Club Member Minerva H. Hoyt, Champion of Joshua Tree National Park

Remembered fondly as the first desert conservationist, the Woman of the Joshua Trees, and the Apostle of the Cacti, GCA club member Minerva Hamilton Hoyt was recently recognized on International Women’s Day by Joshua Tree National Park: “On International Women’s Day, we celebrate Hoyt’s work that led to the creation of this park!” In addition the Los Angeles Times published the story of how Hoyt’s efforts single-handedly paved the way for the future of the iconic American landscape. Today, the 792,000 acre distinct desert ecosystem welcomes nearly 3 million visitors each year. However, a century ago, the flat plain was in peril.

Although The Garden Club of America was still in its infancy in the 1920s, forward-thinking members were already laying significant groundwork to protect the quality of the environment. Thanks to one ardent and tenacious club member, the late Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, Pasadena Garden Club, nearly one million acres spanning the Mojave and Colorado Deserts would eventually become Joshua Tree National Park.

In the early 1900s, Los Angeles’ growing fascination with desert flora devastated parts of the state’s flat plain. Landscapers helped themselves to unusual wildflowers, yuccas, cactuses, and even Joshua trees, transporting plants to clients’ homes in the city. The rapidly growing automobile industry and expansion of roadways made pilfering of exotic plants even easier for passers by.

Hoyt took action, vehemently advocating for the preservation of desert landscapes that had not yet fallen victim to encroachers. For over a decade and despite numerous roadblocks, Hoyt persisted in her conservation efforts, even transporting desert rocks, sand, and horticulture species across the country to The Garden Club of America’s Flower Show in New York City. There, she educated fellow attendees on the treasures of the American West. In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Proclamation 2193, establishing Joshua Tree National Monument on 825,340 acres.

Today hiking, camping, wildflower viewing, and stargazing are among the myriad recreational offerings for visitors. The national park provides habitat for over 800 higher plant species, dozens of reptile and mammal species, and over 250 bird species. Plants of special concern are being protected within the park, as are 700 archeological sites, 88 historic structures, and 19 cultural landscapes.

Top photo: Artist, Cory Ench, created this mural of Mrs. Hoyt. It appears in the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.

Right: The President of Mexico and Minverva Hoyt (according to the GCA Historian’s notes on photo

Left: Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, Garden Club of Pasadena 


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