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Ocotillo

Fouquieria splendens

Image of Ocotillo
Whole Plant
Image of Ocotillo leaf
Leaf
Image of Ocotillo Flower
Flower

Laurie Ortiz, AGRO/HORT 100G Spring 2002

Family: Fouquieriaceae

Ocotillo is a drought-deciduous shrub. It can have anywhere from 6 to 100 wand like branches that grow from the root crown. It's stems can grow anywhere from 9 to 30 feet tall with spines to 1.5 inches long. Leaves are thick and leathery and can grow out several times in a growing season depending on the amount of water available in a season. Ocotillo is usually found in AZ, NM, CA, CO, TX and Mexico where soil is well drained on rocky slopes, mesas, out washed plains and desert grasslands.

City slickers like it because it ads grace to their desert landscape and it does not take a lot of water once established. It can be planted it full sun. Propagation is easy by cuttings or seeds. But lets not forget the beautiful fire orange flowers it produces. These flowers produce a honey like nectar that attracts the Hummingbirds.

Ocotillo is available at most nurseries as bare root. It can be planted at anytime of the year. So next time your out riding in the desert and you suddenly see fire orange color appear from a brush most likely it will be the ocotillo.

The Fouquieria, also known as the Ocotillo, Coachwhip, or Candlewood,is endemic to Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Fouquieriasreside mainly in desert habitat. Some Fouquieria are trees with erect,stout, branched trunks, others are much-branched shrubs, and the Ocotillogroup which consist of schrubs with erect or leaning, mostly branchless,wandlike stems. The blades of the leaves fall early, leaving the stalksto develop as thorns from which the axils will sprout secondary leaves.

Fouquieria slendens posses showy flowers which make attractivedisplays. This is one reason why this is the only species of Fouquieriamuch cultivated. From the base it produces several to many erect orleaning canes from 6 to 20 feet, but more commonly about 6 to 10 feet. Inwarm desert regions the ocotillo is a favorite garden shrub. It is usedto provide grace and variety to landscapes. It is much used as an impenetrablehedge plant. One thing to be cautious about when planting the ocotillo,is that they can be dangerous, perhaps for children considering the amountof stout thorns which exist throughout the plant.

In the desert the octillo can stand leafless for many rainless months.During that time, although the roots are deep, obtain little or no water.This is possible because of the plants' ability to conserve moisture. Theocotillo does not store a lot of water either, it simply is very carefulwith the little supplies it obtains. Another interesting fact about theocotillo is that it is the most cold resistant species.

-Chris Case Agron/Hort 100, Spring 1999