Fouquieria splendens Engelm.
Fouquieria splendens Engelm. ssp. splendens
Ocotillo, Coachwhip, Jacob’s Staff, Vine Cactus
Ocotillos spend much of their time looking like giant dead rosebushes, but they’re just biding their time. Given some moisture, they sprout large numbers of tiny leaves and beautiful stark red flowers. They are native to the Mojave and Colorado deserts, the southwestern US, Baja California, and Sonora Mexico, at elevations below 5000' (1.5 km).
Ocotillos have near doppelgängers called Madagascar ocotillo. These closely similar plants are an example of convergent evolution, where unrelated plants sometimes evolve to fill identical ecological niches in different locations. But you won’t confuse them, since, as you have probably guessed, Madagascar ocotillo grows only in Madagascar.
Identification: Ocotillo (pronounced awk-oh-TEE-oh) is a collection of tall, thin, unbranched stalks up to 20' (6.1 m) high, facing mostly upward but sometimes looking bowed as if bowing to the wind. The branches have thorns about ½-1" (1.3-2.5 cm) long, and sometimes have tiny leaves. Flowers, in clusters about 10" (25 cm) long, and fruits appear near the top. Ocotillo’s size and shape is unmistakable. It is found in association with mesquite, creosotebush, paloverde, and ceniza.
Fouquieria splendens at George and Audrey DeLange's Arizona wildflower site
Fouquieria splendens on Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness
Fouquieria splendens on Desert-tropicals.com
Fouquieria splendens on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database
Fouquieria splendens at the Vanderbilt University Bioimages web site
Fouquieria splendens on Wikipedia
Fouquieria splendens as Compiled by the Master Gardeners of the University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension
Fouquieria splendens at Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and the Plants of the Sonoran Desert
Fouquieria splendens from the Jepson Manual
Fouquieria splendens description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Aug 2013.