There’s  California town named Ocotillo.  I mentioned it once in a post about the wind and I recently passed through again on my way to Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  I never elaborated about its namesake, Fouquieria splendens, a desert plant with Jekyll and Hyde character.

Spiny and spindly one moment, then sprinkle with rain and POOF, out pop leaves and blossoms. I must have an evil streak as I love the unembellished  graceful spray of stalks, the spines, and bark nearly as much as the post-rain personality. Yet, there’s a sense of good fortune to enjoy in seeing the blooming, leafing ocotillo as you’ll only see it after a rain and even then not every plant bursts forth with life.

Ocotillo (the plant) next to wind turbine near Ocotillo (the town):

Ocotillo (the plant) next to wind turbine near Ocotillo (the town):

Spiny and spindly (the plant, not Mr. Mudlips!)Anza Borrego 2013 286

Anza Borrego 2013 063

Then frills of green after the rain…

Anza Borrego 2013 179

Anza Borrego 2013 251And the blossoms…

Anza Borrego 2013 074Anza Borrego 2013 073


6 thoughts on “Ocotillo

  1. Ocotillo is one of those desert plants you really have to see to believe. Homesteaders used to use it as natural fencing; I’ve been told it was useful for keeping out snakes. I have seen it landscaped in tight clusters and the effect is dramatic.

    • I’d say dramatic is a great way to describe it! It wasn’t only homesteaders that used it but First People and it’s even in use still. It has some medicinal use, apparently the waxy resin can be used to cure leather. I have seen it employed as a living fence when the stalks are planted and watered.

  2. Interesting plant. As you say, spiny and not very attractive in its ‘dry’ state. How long does it take to green up and flower after rain? Does it stay leafy for long?

    • It only takes a few days to leaf out, the leaves can last days or weeks, then turn color (like many hardwoods do in autumn), and they fall off. There’s no seasonality to it, just rain that triggers the growth so the cycle could repeat several times in one year.

      • That is quite intriguing. It wouldn’t be on my ‘favourite species’ list, but would definitely make it to my ‘fascinating list’ 😆
        Thanks for the background info and the interesting post. The photos are great, they really show what the plant is like.

      • It really is a cool plant: icon of the Sonoran desert almost as much as cacti. I know it appears a bit ungainly but for some reason I really am attracted to it. Perhaps because the fortune of seeing it in bloom feels like winning the lottery.

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