Botany Photo of the Day
In science, beauty. In beauty, science. Daily.

January 18, 2017: Botany Photo of the Day is being actively worked on. Returning soon!

Fouquieria columnaris

Fouquieria columnaris

A thank you to van+s@Flickr (original image | BPotD Flickr Group Pool) for sharing today's photograph, taken inside a greenhouse at New York Botanical Garden.

One look at this photograph of the boojum tree and I was immediately reminded of my image of Fouquieria splendens. Makes sense, I suppose – they are (now) both in the same genus. However, a search for Idria columnaris yields two-thirds the results of a search for the current scientific name, so this synonym is still often used. At least in one sense, it is too bad that this species has been moved into Fouquieria: Idria is far easier to spell.

The Virginia Tech Forestry has a factsheet on Fouquieria columnaris that is worth visiting to see more of this plant. I particularly like this quote: “VERY UNUSUAL, considered by many to be the strangest looking tree on earth.”. The University of Wisconsin Botany Department has some photographs of this species (of a decent size) showing its habit: Fouquieria (ignore the photo that is titled F. columnaris Flowering Plant – it is actually Fouquieria splendens).

If you have access, you might want to read the following for a detailed examination of the biology of this species: Humphrey, RR. 1933. A Study of Idria columnaris and Fouquieria splendens. Am. J. Bot. 22(2): 184-207.

Photography resource link: I don't often link to camera gear because it seems too many photographers get distracted by the tools instead of taking photographs, so I deliberately try to avoid it (except when I'm researching techniques and learn that I need a different tool). However, I have to make an exception for this: the Seitz 6 x 17 Digital – 160 megapixels scan back camera that can capture an image in 0.5 second (a scan back camera operates more like a scanner, so you have to imagine a really fast, super high-quality, portable scanner with the depth of field of a camera). And for only the low, low price of 28900 Euros or ~ 37000 USD. Fun to imagine in idle moments.


Strange indeed! Where does this plant originate? I'm guessing somewhere very dry, given the small leaves growing out of the trunk.

It's from Baja California

Fouquieria columnaris - USDA 9b - 11 -

The boojum tree is native to Baja and pockets of Sonora, Mexico. It truly is a strange looking tree! It's worth a Google™ Image Search to view its peculiar form.

Specimens can be seen at Boyce-Thompson Arboretum, east of Phoenix.

The link to the Sietz was awesome....but for me I'll just have to stick to my scanner:)

There's a great specimen photograph of one in this month's issue (September 2006) of National Geographic.

Many of us have commented on how we've been enjoying some of the "otherworldly" flowers and plants in recent weeks.

Now poking around in the pages of 3 years ago, I find a wonderful TREE that could have come from another planet!

A quote taken from the Virginia Tech Forestry page (link in the write-up above):

"Straight, single tapering trunk (up to 50 feet tall) with few branches but numerous small twigs. Looks a bit like an upside down large carrot. VERY UNUSUAL, considered by many to be the strangest looking tree on earth. They resemble something from a science fiction book."

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research
6804 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4
Tel: 604.822.3928
Fax: 604.822.2016 Email:

Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC | © Copyright The University of British Columbia