A few years ago I became enamored with the Boojum tree, an odd looking plant native to the southern part of the Sonoran Desert in an area known as Baja California. I soon discovered that many of the more striking plants commonly used in desert landscaping have their origins in the Baja.

Flanked by the Sea of Cortez on the East and the Pacific Ocean on the west, this peninsula contains thirteen distinct communities of plants ranging from Mediterranean, Desert and Tropical.

A few of my favorites from this region are:

  • Boojum tree [Fouquieria columnaris]: same family as the ocotillo, this species has been described as looking like an upside-down albino carrot. The name was taken from Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Hunting of the Snark”
  • Red – spine barrel cactus [Ferocactus gracillis]: this medium size cactus has brilliant red spines and makes a showy focal point in any desert landscape.
  • Totem-pole Cactus [Lophocerus schottii forma monstruosus]: actually a mutant form of the Old Man cactus, another Baja native, this is the only [almost] spineless cacti we have. Great around pools or walkways.
  • Cardon or Elephant Cactus [Pachycerus pringlei]: looking very similar to the Saguaro but much easier to find, this giant grows faster than the Saguaro and develops arms sooner and lower to the ground.
  • California Fairy Duster [Callinandra californica]: much showier than its northern cousin, the Pink Fairy Duster, this species produces bright red blooms most of the year that attract pollinators. A bonus is that it doesn’t mind a haircut now and then.

All of these Baja plants are on display at Boyce Thompson Arboretum as well as at the Desert Botanical Garden.

One of my goals for the new year is to add a Baja garden to the Smiling Dog Collection, so stay tuned!