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Fouquieria splendens - Ocotillo


Ocotillo is both amazing and scary. Tall thorny sticks grow straight up out of the desert floor with no branches, no leaves (most of the year). Just 10' sticks covered with thorns that make roses look friendly. Ranchers break off chunks and stick them in the ground to make cattle fences, and they actually root.

After spring rains, foot-long spikes of scarlet blossoms explode from the tips like flames, making the desert look like a giant birthday cake. It is a sight to behold. The rest of the year Ocotillo looks more like dead sticks, stately and sculptural, but pretty dead.

They're not. Ocotillo grows slowly to 15' and forms a cluster (but no branches.) After a rain, it puts out brilliant lime green leaves, and flowers repeatedly through summer if there's sufficient water. Birds and insects love the sweet nectar. In autumn, the blooms give way to bright orange seedpods.

Ocotillo is a curiosity and a very handsome plant if you have the room. It absolutely needs desert conditions, will tolerate frost down to -17C, and is beyond drought tolerant.

10 Seeds

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