Plant: Shrub to small tree; short trunk 10-20 cm tall bearing numerous usually simple, erect, spiny branches 2-6 m high Leaves: 1-2 cm long, 2-8 mm wide, obovate, on terminal long growth or axillary short shoots, the tips rounded or notched Inflorescence: narrow terminal panicles 5-20cm long Flowers: red, reddish orange, yellow, or pinkish purple; corolla tube 6.5-22 mm long Fruit: 3-valved capsules Misc: Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts and mesquite grasslands References: W. B. McDougall. Seed plants of Northern Arizona. J.C. Hickman, ed. The Jepson Manual. Kearney and Peebles. Arizona Flora. ASU specimens. Mason, Charles T., Jr. 1999. Fouquieriaceae. Ariz. - Nev. Acad. Sci. 32(1).
Mason 1999, McDougall 1973
Common Name: ocotillo Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Shrub General: Tall, many-stemmed shrublike plant, 2-7 m tall; stems unbranched and cane-like, erect to ascending, covered with thorns; bark gray with darker furrows. Leaves: Appearing within days after ground-soaking rains and turning yellow and dropping in response to drought; blades fleshy, ovate, 1-3 cm long. Flowers: Orange, in dense panicles, 10-25 cm long, at branch tips, with conspicuous leafy bracts that fall off when flowers are mature; corolla tubular, about 2 cm long, bright red-orange, with 5 reflexed lobes at the top. Fruits: Capsule 10-15 mm long, 3-valved; containing 6-15 flat, papery-winged seeds. Ecology: Found on dry, rocky or gravelly slopes and sandy plains from sea level to 5,000 ft (0-1524 m); flowers February-March. Distribution: s CA, AZ, s NM, s TX; south to c MEX. Notes: Very distinct plant in our region, particularly good for hummingbirds. Watch for the plants greening up quickly after rains. Ethnobotany: Blossoms soaked for a summer drink, a blood purifier and tonic. Seeds were parched and ground into flour for mush or cakes. Papago pressed the nectar out of blossoms, hardened it like rock candy and chewed. Flowers sucked for nectar. Stems used for fences and houses. Apache made a powdered root paste to ease swelling. Gum from the bark was used to wax leather. Etymology: Fouquieria is named for Pierre Eloi Fouquier (1776-1850) a French physician and naturalist; splendens means splendid. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015, AHazelton 2017