Monday, May 4, 2020

Ocotillo - 2020

In my desert wanderings this year I've discovered one thing I didn't know about ocotillo before. A previous post says, "The ocotillo has two types of leaves. The primary leaves are produced when the stem grows. Those leaves have a stout center midrib which form spines after the leaves are shed." I've read those words but never actually seen or noticed it. So this year I purposely looked for a young ocotillo so that I could see the tips of the branches and how the primary leaves turn into the spines. What I found was remarkable. 
This young ocotillo plant was not very tall.
The tip of the branches have this weird straight brown stems with with a small single leaf bending upwards at the end. They remind me of ballerina hands poking awkwardly upward. Then note how the stalk appears to be a conglomeration of the brown stems squeezed together. 
A view of it looking straight down on the tip gives another perspective on it. It has almost a wagon-wheel feel to it from this angle. 
This perspective, with a longer view of the branch, shows the earlier stems that have lost their leaves and turned into spines (left end). The spines are hard and not flexible. The brown branches are flexible and not very hard. This was a very cool discovery. Also note that as the branch hardens it turns a grayish color, but still retains some of the brown veining from the individual stems. 
I also wrote previously that, "The secondary leaves grow rapidly in response to rainfall, sometimes within 24 hours, then wither quickly after the soil dries out. Therefore, the ocotillo is always spiny, but is leafless most of the year. The secondary leaves are oval, about two inches long, and grow from the axils of the spines (the angle between the stem and the spine)."
Note that the secondary leaves are not connected to the spines. The stems now have a rough hewed look. 

Of course the red flowers at the end of each branch are what make the ocotillo really stand out. 
They really jump out with a blue sky and white clouds as background. 

The ocotillo makes the landscape. Some of my favorite desert landscapes include the ocotillo. 

1 comment:

  1. This is the drama queen of the desert. It likes to stand out and be noticed in all its finery. I love ocotillo plants in bloom!