The Ocotillo plant is a common sight in the deserts around San Felipe, with its tall, spined stalks that reach toward the sky. While it may look barren and near-dead during dry times of the year, a good rain will cause it to suddenly burst into green leaves. Often in Baja you will see fences made of Ocotillo stalks, some of which may be alive and growing.
While it may not be the most dramatic plant, there is a lot more to the Ocotillo than meets the eye. Known scientifically as Fouquieria splendid, it has a variety of nicknames including candlewood, desert coral, coachwhip, slimwood, flamingsword and vine cactus. When it grows, it adapts itself according to the direction it faces, like cacti do, to moderate the amount of sun certain sides of the plant absorb. It is not a type of cactus, but actually a shrub. Ocotillos only grow in North America, and are a favorite plant of hummingbirds.
Ocotillo flowers are a vibrant reddish-orange color and when they bloom, they add a flair of color to the desert. They are also edible, and can be eaten fresh (add a splash of color to a salad), or dried to make tea with.
So the next time you see an Ocotillo, take a moment to appreciate this beautiful desert plant!