Engelm. is a desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...
of the southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...
and northern Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...
. Common names include ocotillo
, desert coral
, Jacob's staff
, and vine cactus
, although it is not a true cactus. For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although closer examination reveals that the stems
A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes, the nodes hold buds which grow into one or more leaves, inflorescence , conifer cones, roots, other stems etc. The internodes distance one node from another...
are partly green. With rainfall the plant quickly becomes lush with small (2-4 cm) ovate leaves
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....
, which may remain for weeks or even months.
Individual stems may reach a diameter of 5 cm at the base, and the plant may grow to a height of 10 m. The plant branches very heavily at its base, but above that the branches are pole-like and only infrequently divide further, and specimens in cultivation may not exhibit any secondary branches. The leaf stalks harden into blunt spines, and new leaves sprout from the base of the spine.
The bright crimson flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...
s appear especially after rainfall in spring, summer, and occasionally fall. Flowers are clustered indeterminantly at the tips of each mature stem. Individual flowers are mildly zygomorphic and are pollinated
Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred in plants, thereby enabling fertilisation and sexual reproduction. Pollen grains transport the male gametes to where the female gamete are contained within the carpel; in gymnosperms the pollen is directly applied to the ovule itself...
Hummingbirds are birds that comprise the family Trochilidae. They are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring in the 7.5–13 cm range. Indeed, the smallest extant bird species is a hummingbird, the 5-cm Bee Hummingbird. They can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings...
s and native carpenter bee
Carpenter bees are large, hairy bees distributed worldwide. There are some 500 species of carpenter bee in 31 subgenera...
Planting ocotillo can be done the year around with care. Ideal ocotillo plants have been grown from stem cuttings or from seed. Transplanting large bare-root plants has marginal success. They should be planted to the original growing depth and, as with cacti, in their original directional orientation. The original south side of the plant, which has become more heat and sunlight-resistant, should again face the brighter, hotter southern direction. If their direction is not marked, success is again limited.
Ocotillo plants prefer well drained sandy or gravely loam soils with light to moderate amounts of organic content. For caliche subsoil, break a hole through it so the plant has adequate drainage.
Sunny, open, unrestricted locations and those where surface water does not collect are ideal for ocotillo.
To help prevent a newly transplanted ocotillo from falling over or blowing down in a storm, large stones may be placed over the root area instead of staking, which often scars the stems. Leave two to four inches space around the trunk. Some degree of growth set-back is to be expected. Properly transplanted, however, this native plant will reestablish itself fairly quickly.
Transplanted ocotillo plants require irrigation to become established, but once established, they can survive on 8 inches of rainfall per year.
A well-balanced fertilizer at half strength will help ocotillo to grow faster. This will usually stimulate plant growth and vigor. However, do not apply fertilizer to newly transplanted plants. When using any fertilizer, apply it evenly to the soil surface over the rooting area and water well into the soil. Do not risk overfertilizing; this plant is adapted to harsh conditions without added fertilizer.
State plant protection laws are enforced; contact the state Department of Agriculture for specific regulations, restrictions, permits, penalties, etc. before digging and moving any cacti, agaves, ocotillos, yuccas, or other protected species. Purchased plants should be from a reputable source.
- Individual ocotillo stems are used as poles as a fencing
A fence is a freestanding structure designed to restrict or prevent movement across a boundary. It is generally distinguished from a wall by the lightness of its construction: a wall is usually restricted to such barriers made from solid brick or concrete, blocking vision as well as passage .Fences...
material in their native region, and often take root to form a living fence.
- Owing to light weight and an interesting pattern, these have been used for canes or walking sticks.
- Flowers are collected, dried, and used for herbal tea.
- Fresh flowers are used in salads and have a tangy flavor.
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...
are accepted by some botanists:
- Fouquieria splendens subsp. splendens Engelm.
- Fouquieria splendens subsp. breviflora Hendrickson
- Fouquieria splendens subsp. campanulata (Nash
George Valentine Nash was an American botanist. Employeed by the New York Botanical Garden, Nash did field work in the Bahamas, South Florida and Haiti.He published Costa Rican Orchids North American Flora...
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a state park located within the Colorado Desert of Southern California. The park takes its name from 18th century, Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, the Spanish word for bighorn sheep...
- Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is a national park located in the U.S. state of Texas. Big Bend has national significance as the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States, which includes more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 56...
- Chihuahuan Desert
The Chihuahuan Desert is a desert, and an ecoregion designation, that straddles the U.S.-Mexico border in the central and northern portions of the Mexican Plateau, bordered on the west by the extensive Sierra Madre Occidental range, and overlaying northern portions of the east range, the Sierra...
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas and contains Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at in elevation. It also contains El Capitan, long used as a landmark by people traveling along the old route later followed by the Butterfield Overland...
- McKittrick Canyon
McKittrick Canyon is a scenic canyon within the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas. The steep towering walls of McKittrick Canyon protect a rich riparian oasis in the midst of the Chihuahuan Desert....
- Sonoran Desert
The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert which straddles part of the United States-Mexico border and covers large parts of the U.S. states of Arizona and California and the northwest Mexican states of Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. It is one of the largest and hottest...