Ocotillo is a tall, stout shrub with many stiff,
spiny stems rising from the base, each of which can be simple or few-branched.
It can grow to as tall as 20' and the stems are leafless for much
of the year, producing masses of leaves usually only after a rainy period.
The leaves are somewhat fleshy, oblong to obovate. There
are primary leaves, soon deciduous, whose petioles develop into the
spines, and clusters of secondary leaves appear in the axils of the
spines after rainfall, and this may happen several times in the course
of a year. The showy, bright crimson flowers are held in an elongated
terminal cluster and contain 5 sepals and 5 united petals forming a
tubular corolla with 10-17 exserted stamens. Ocotillo is common
in the Colorado Desert, where it is in fact one of the botanical indicators
of that desert, but also in the s.e. Mojave Desert, blooming from March
to July. These pictures were taken in the southern part of Joshua
Tree National Park.
Click here for Latin name derivations: 1) Fouquieria
Pronunciation: foo-kwee-ER-ee-a SPLEN-dens.
Click here for Botanical