Boojum, Boojum, You See


"It's a Snark!" was the sound that first came to their ears,
And seemed almost too good to be true.
Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
Then the ominous words "It's a Boo-"

Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air
A weary and wandering sigh
Then sounded like "-jum!" but the others declare
It was only a breeze that went by.

They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away---
For the Snark *was* a Boojum, you see. 

-- Lewis Carrol, "The  Hunting Of The  Snark"

A docent at the Huntington told us that the many baby Boojums (Fouquieria columnaris) in the Desert Garden may indicate climate change, as this recent appearance of Boojum seedlings around the existing trees was a new phenomenon.  In such an environment (frequently disturbed?) I would think that there were too many variables to point to climate change as the cause.   The Huntington has several impressive specimens, including a very large one  that had fallen over and shattered within the past couple weeks due to the combination of heavy rain followed by a night of strong winds.  There's at least one quite large Boojum at Rancho Santiago Botanical Garden, but the  largest one I've seen was a lone giant at the Wrigley on Catalina Island.  In the wild, there is said to be one in a protected  area in Baja California that is 90 feet (27 meters).  At a typical growth rate of 3"  (7.62 cm) per year...that specimen may be well over 300 years old.

Baby Boojums, should you look closely:
Whatever the cause, I say the more Boojums the merrier.  Who can resist something that resembles a fifty foot tall, upside down parsnip?  The docent also said F. columnaris had been nicknamed the "Boojum Tree" by British Lewis Carroll fans exploring Baja California, the Boojum's native home.   I imagine the conversation that produced the nickname.  Perhaps it took place on a Baja beach, under a moonrise on a beautiful warm summer night, about as far away from a dreary dripping wet English January as it is possible to be. 

Mammillaria compressa is also from Mexico, though not from Baja. It grows faster than your average Mammillaria, and forms clumps potentially 1 meter across. With spines like this, I'd rather meet up with the Snark.

Mammillaria compressa

While we contemplated the Boojums and their babies, the Bulbuls sang sweet songs and hopped from Boojum to Yucca to Aloe. Bulbils are a bird native to Southern Asia and China that have become established in the Pasadena area.


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