Plant family: Fouquieriaceae-Fouquieria
Plant type: Shrub
Plant origin: N/A, California, Other Southwest
Creosote Bush Scrub, Desert
Sandy Loam, Rocky
Attracts Wildlife, Edible , Important to Native People
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 leaves, which may remain for weeks or even months. The bright crimson flowers appear especially after rainfall in spring, summer, and occasionally fall. Flowers are clustered at the tips of each mature stem and are pollinated by hummingbirds and native carpenter bees.
Planting ocotillo can be done year-around with care. 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. Ocotillo plants prefer well-drained, sandy or gravely loam soil with low to moderate amounts of organic content. Ideal locations are sunny, open, unrestricted and those where surface water does not collect. Transplanted plants require irrigation to become established, but once established, they can survive on 8 inches of rainfall per year.
Individual ocotillo stems are sometimes used as poles as a fencing material in their native region, and often take root to form a living fence. Fresh flowers are sometimes used in salads and have a tangy flavor. Flowers are collected, dried, and used for tisanes.
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