WILDFLOWERS OF NEW MEXICO

 

With numerous 8–20-foot tall, thorny, twisted, whip-like, leafless wands, this iconic plant of the Chihuahua and Sonora deserts looks dead most of the year. After rains, green leaves to 2-inches long cover the barren branches, and dense spike-like clusters up to 1-foot long of red flowers decorate the tips. The green stems are often planted as a living fence around houses in desert areas, and were traditionally used as roof cross members in adobe houses.


FLOWER: April–May, or anytime after rains. Often drooping clusters of flamboyant, red, tubular, 3/4–1-inch long (20–25 mm) flowers appear before the leaves. The thick, leathery, spoon- to egg-shaped leaves last only a few weeks before dropping, but flowering can last for 2 months and coincides with spring hummingbird migration.


HABITAT: Shallow, rocky soils, slopes, bajadas, drainages; desert grasslands and scrub.


ELEVATION: 2,300–6,700 feet.


RANGE: AZ, CA, NV, NM, TX; Mexico.


SIMILAR SPECIES: The tall, thorny wands distinguish this species. Ten other species occur, mostly in Mexico, including the bizarre Boojum Tree in Baja California.


NM COUNTIES: Common in the southern half of NM in desert habitats: Catron, Chaves, Dona Ana, Eddy, Grant, Hidalgo, Lincoln, Luna, Otero, Sierra, Socorro.

OCOTILLO

FOUQUIERIA  SPLENDENS

Ocotillo Family, Fouquieraceae

Perennial shrub

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