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Fouquieria splendens (Ocotillo)
Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia

Fouquieria splendens

Fouquieria splendens Engelm.

Ocotillo, Devil's Walking Stick, Candlewood

Fouquieriaceae (Ocotillo Family)

Synonym(s): Fouquieria splendens ssp. splendens

USDA Symbol: fosp2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Ocotillo is a spiny shrub to 20 ft. with many long, whip-like, unbranched green stems growing from the base. Stems are leafless most of the year, covering themselves with bright green leaves after a rain. A funnel-shaped plant with several woody, almost unbranched, spiny, commonly straight stems leafless most of the year, and a tight cluster of red flowers at tip of each branch. Scarlet, tubular-shaped flowers are held in terminal clusters.

The family consists of about 11 species, mostly in Mexico, with Ocotillo (pronounced o-ko-tee'-yo) the most northern, and perhaps the Boojum Tree (F. columnaris) of Baja California the most unusual. Leaves appear only after rain and wither when the soil dries, a cycle commonly repeated several times during the warm season. The name Ocotillo means "little pine" in Mexican Spanish, a reference to the fact that, like a pine (ocote), its stalks produce a resin used by humans for various purposes.


From the Image Gallery

51 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 20 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Flower: Flowers in 8 inch spikes

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Orange
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul


USA: AZ , CA , NM , NV , TX
Native Distribution: W. TX to s. CA & n. Mex.
Native Habitat: Flat desert areas

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Sandy or rocky soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Limestone-based, Igneous
Conditions Comments: Drought tolerant. Tall, spreading stems with thorns form an impenetrable enclosure.


Use Ornamental: Accent tree or shrub, Screens, Desert landscape, Security hedge
Use Wildlife: Flowers attract hummingbirds, finches and many other birds as well as insects. Nectar-hummingbirds, Nectar-insects, Nectar-bees, Seeds-granivorous birds, Seeds-Small mammals
Use Other: Gum resin in bark used for waxing leather and adhesive/waterproofing agent, and varnish.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Will sprout from untreated seeds sown in spring or early summer. Reproduces most reliably from cuttings taken any time.
Seed Collection: Gather seeds as the capsules turn brown and begin to dry but before they dehisce. Air dry, remove seeds from capsules, and store in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: No pretreatment is necessary.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Tohono Chul Park, Inc. - Tucson, AZ
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX


Bibref 307 - Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest: Including recipes, harmful plants, natural dyes, and textile fibers: A Practical Guide (1999) Tull, D.
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender

Search More Titles in Bibliography

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1990 VOL. 7, NO.2 - Preservation Blooms in Recreated Prairies, New Wildflower Center Prairie Welcome...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Fouquieria splendens in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Fouquieria splendens in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Fouquieria splendens


Record Modified: 2009-05-14
Research By: TWC Staff

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