Ocotillo, desert coral, vine cactus
South California, Arizona, far south Nevada, south New Mexico and west Texas
From 10 to 30 feet
Sunny, rocky or gravelly places in deserts
1 or 2 inches long, ovate or obovate
Ocotillo, or fouquieria splendens, is a common plant of the Southwest deserts, ranging from the Mojave in south California across the to the Chihuahuan of west Texas. For much of the year it has neither leaves nor flowers, but both appear in spring, and the latter are most noticeable; a cluster of many dozen bright red tubular blooms covering the uppermost 12 inches or so of each stem.
Flowers consist of a five-lobed corolla, the tips curled back to expose the red stamens and yellow anthers inside. The rigid, woody stems, usually unbranched except at the base, are covered with stout spines up to 1.5 inches long. In wet years a second flowering may occur in the fall. Pollination is by hummingbirds and other species equipped to access the pollen at the base of the narrow flowers.