Ocotillo flower buds have started appearing on the ocotillo that we planted in the rock and cactus garden a couple of years ago. This ocotillo and another were rescued from a construction site by our neighbor who gave them to us to put in the garden.
The plants were dormant for quite a while until leaves and flower buds started appearing on this one a few weeks ago. The flower buds should start opening soon as many of the other ocotillos in town are already showing the crimson flowers atop the individual “canes” or stalks of the ocotillo. Note the spines on the canes.
image: flower buds and leaves near the end of one cane. Click on the image to enlarge.
Fouquieria splendens (commonly known as ocotillo American Spanish: [oko?ti?o], but also referred to as coachwhip, candlewood, slimwood, desert coral, Jacob’s staff, Jacob cactus, and vine cactus) is a plant indigenous to the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert in the Southwestern United States (southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas), and northern Mexico (as far south as Hidalgo and Guerrero).
Ocotillo 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 are partly green. With rainfall, the plant quickly becomes lush with small (2–4 cm), ovate leaves, 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 (33 ft). The plant branches very heavily at its base, but above that, the branches are pole-like and rarely 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 flowers appear especially after rainfall in spring, summer, and occasionally fall. Flowers are clustered indeterminately at the tips of each mature stem. Individual flowers are mildly zygomorphic and are pollinated by hummingbirds and native carpenter bees.