Ocotillo

The Ocotillo, known as Fouquieria splendens also has many other names such as candlewood, coachwhip, desert coral, Jacob cactus, Jacob staff, and vine cactus. It is made up of three species which are splendens engelms, breviflora Hendrickson and campanulata Henrickson. The ocotillo is a strangely shaped plant that is a native to the Southwestern part of the United States. The plant usually looks like a dead brownish bundle of a stick in the absence of rain but on a closer look, some of its parts are actually green. But as soon as the rain falls, its ovate leaves spring out intermittently along the long branches and can remain for many months.

 The ocotillo stems are able to develop to about 33 feet and 5 cm in diameter. The base of the plant is heavily packed with its branches but primarily, the ocotillo looks like a pole.

Bright red flowers spring forth at the start of the rainfall during summer and spring. The stem carries a cluster of flowers at the tip which is usually pollinated by carpenter bees and hummingbirds.

Ocotillo can be cultivated at any time of the year. They prefer well-drained sandy soil with a minimal amount of organic material. They can also be nurtured in an unrestricted, open environment with access to sunlight and free from floods.

The Ocotillo is drought tolerant with perfect roots for absorbing water and nutrients in the soil such that they can begin to grow leaves in less than 24 hours. The leaves expel most of the water from the plant, which makes it start losing its leaves once it is getting dry. During the dry season, the ocotillo at the possibility of death distributes valuable stored water to produce only flowers and seeds instead of developing. This will enable a fresh set of ocotillo plant to germinate and develop new plants.

Hummingbirds can extend their beak to the bottom of the long flowers and access the nectar. The flower will then drop some pollen on its head to allow the pollination of other flowers. This base is not accessible to carpenter bees, so they cut the base of the flower leaving behind the pollen but the rear end of the bee can get to another flower thereby depositing pollen.

The ocotillo stems are beneficial in creating poles, a material that can be used for fencing around planted crops with the hope of repelling mice and rats. Branches from the Ocotillo can also be used as a walking stick or a cane. Its flowers are also edible with a tangy flavor that can be used in salads.

A mixture made up of the bark from the ocotillo can be used to alleviate the symptoms of congestion and enhance the absorption of fat during digestion. The ocotillo flowers and roots can be grounded and mixed with bathing water for relieving fatigue. Its roots and flowers can also be placed on fresh wounds to stop bleeding.

Native Americans usually consume the flowers raw, gather and dry them for producing tisanes and also soak them in water for an invigorating summer drink.