Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Boojum Tree

"'But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
If your Snark be a Boojum! For then
You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
 And never be met with again!”

“The Hunting of the Snark” by Lewis Carrol

Boojum Tree: photo by Cliff Hutson
Boojum Tree: photo by Cliff Hutson

Unlike Jack London, I have never had a Snark to call my own. Many years ago I considered buying one, but my wife pointed out that there was not enough room in my life for both a spouse and a sailboat, even a small one.  However, I have gazed upon the visage of a Boojum, many times and not vanished.

Fouquieria columnaris, or Boojum, is a tree in the same family as Ocotillo; Fouquieriaceae (Candlewood). The boojum is basically endemic to the Baja California Peninsula, but can be considered as being in the California Floristic Province. Many say it resembles a slender upside-down carrot, up to 50 feet tall and about 1-1/2 feet wide at the base. It is covered with spiny twigs that bear whitish to yellowish flowers in hanging clusters during the Summer; and some sometimes in the Fall.  As with ocotillo, its small leaves drop off in drier conditions, leaving the greenish stems to carry out photosynthesis.

Fouquieria is named for Pierre Éloi Fouquier (1776-1850), a French physician,  professor of medicine and naturalist. The epithet, columnaris means  “in the shape of a column”, referring to the stout upward tapering trunk. The common name of Boojum Tree was given by Godfrey Sykes of the Desert Botanical Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona. He apparently named it after the mythical being citied the nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll, the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

Fouquieria columnaris: photo by Cliff Hutson
Fouquieria columnaris: photo by Cliff Hutson

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