decision, but we embraced it, imbued with manifest destiny of the 21st century: the west’s fertile farmland re-formed in technology hubs, then and now ideal places for someone willing to work hard for the opportunity to succeed. Our plot along this new frontier fell below the fabled epicenter of Silicon Valley—sliding down California past Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Orange County—to the aptly named city of Phoenix, Arizona.
When we arrived, we found a desert brimming with abundance, from horned owls and saguaro cacti to the Fouquieria columnaris. The Fouquieria columnaris? The Fouquieria columnaris is a tree that grows to 50 feet with branches like spiny twigs that stick out at right angles. Short waxy leafs cover the whole thing. It blooms in the summer and fall; the flowers occur in hanging clusters that are a creamy yellow with a honey scent. It is a remarkable looking plant, something my wife compared to an upside down parsnip.
The Fouquieria columnaris is not particular about the type of soil in which it is planted, and, as our tour guide at the Phoenix-area Boyce Thompson Arboretum explains, when a specimen was brought north from the Baja peninsula, the first English botanist to lay eyes on it, Godfrey Sykes, thought it so spectacular that it could only resemble the fantasy creature from Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical poem The Hunting of the Snark, and so he dubbed it “Boojum”.
It’s fitting that the Boojum name stuck, having been bequeathed in Tucson to a tree…