The following list highlights a few plant species found in Baja.
Boojum Tree (Idria columnaris)
Joseph Wood Krutch’s fascination with the boojum tree lead to the motto “boojum or bust” and an entire chapter devoted to the plant in his book, The Forgotten Peninsula: A Naturalist in Baja California. He also authored “Mouse and the Boojum Tree” published in the Virginia Quarterly Review in 1952. The isolated range of the boojum tree in Baja California stretches from about the 30th parallel to the 27th and is almost always found in the same area as granite rock (Humphrey 184). In Spanish, the tree is called cirio and gives its name to the national park Valle de los Cirios.
Boojums dominate the landscape and are, ecologically, the dominant organism; some small, some forty or fifty feet high; some thick, some thin, some unbranched, some branching crazily as though at random; some lifting the branches upward, some allowing them to droop and curl fantastically. The effect is almost hallucinatory–rather like some surrealist dream. —Joseph Wood Krutch, The Forgotten Peninsula
Mexican Cardon Cactus or Elephant Cactus (Pachycereus pringlei)
The Mexican cardon cactus is a Baja icon. Fields of the plant cover the landscape. Mature cacti grow large arms and also bear fruit. The cardon towers to an average of 10 meters, but some individuals have been known to reach 18 meters; unfortunately, deforestation makes it difficult to find the tallest trees anymore.
Mangroves create one of the most crucial habitats in the world. The roots act as an anchor against erosion, their extensive roots protect juvenile fish, but also harbor several other species from the open water. There are several areas in Baja with extensive mangrove forests, including islands with small mangrove populations. John Steinbeck commented on the mangroves when he visited El Magote in The Log from the Sea of Cortez saying, “The roots gave off clicking sounds, and the odor was disgusting. We felt that we were watching something horrible. No one liked the mangroves. Raúl said that in La Paz no one loved them at all.” In the 1970s, a development boom left the majority of the mangroves in La Paz destroyed (Aburto-Oropeza et. al., 10456). Fortunately, however, people began to understand the benefits of mangroves, leading to conservation efforts in Baja and the rest of Mexico. The mangroves are seen as vital to the local fishing industry (Aburto-Oropeza et. al. 10458), because they create one of the most crucial habitats in the world. Recently, mangroves’ were found to play a role in climate change.
The trees grown on top of old roots that do not decompose, creating a massive carbon storage that other trees do not create (Ezcurra et.al., 4405). White, black, and red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle,
Laguncularia racemose, and Avicennia germinans) are common in different areas of the peninsula and the islands.
The Baja Peninsula, the islands in the Gulf of California, and Guadalupe Island in the Pacific Ocean support a variety of plant life, including high numbers of endemic species. An estimated 4,000 different taxa exist, while 30% are considered endemic to the Baja Peninsula (California Natural History Museum). The region’s climate ranges from very arid to temperate, with a mean annual rainfall of less than 200 mm (< 8 inches), creating a landscape that supports high numbers of cactus and succulent species (Riemann, Ezcurra 142). Pine forests occur in the northwest region while the cape region supports tropical plant varieties. The El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve is home to the greatest concentration of plant life on the Baja Peninsula (CONANP).