Ocotillo Flowers, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo NM, April 16, 2015


Ocotillo, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo NM

April 16, 2015

Ocotillo at Oliver Lee

The desert wildflowers are near their peak at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park with lots of yucca, many varieties of cactus, and ocotillo flames shooting up everywhere.

The majestic ocotillo are among my favorite spring desert wildflowers and these backlit and glowing in the late afternoon sun caught my eye.

Ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens

Fouquieria splendens (commonly known as ocotillo, 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 and northern Mexico.

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. 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 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.