Monday, March 24, 2008

Ocotillo ready to bloom...

... its flowers were just starting to open at my favorite piece of Yavapai desert, located down by the Santa Maria River. Neighbors were kind enough to include me on an outing yesterday. (Yes, poppies and other flowers of all sorts are definitely open at 1800 ft. elevation.)

However, this brief blog post is dedicated to the ocotillo, a remarkable southwestern plant that
only requires a short period of moisture for its "dead," thorny sticks to leaf out into green stalks, a feat that may happen as often as six times per year, according to some sources. Of course, the leaves dry out and drop as soon as the soil dries. Heading down the Bagdad road toward the river, one begins to see ocotillo at about the 3000-3500 ft. elevation level. The plants that I saw on this trip had leafed out, at all elevations.

I did discover something new about ocotillo yesterday: there's a curious spiral pattern to the outer surface of the canes, visible on the older, inner canes which grow fewer leaves.

As best I could divine from references at The Google, ocotillo blooms but once per year, in the spring. Just in time for the northward migration of hummingbirds, as a rule. A traditional folk use for the ocotillo is fencing. Upright cut canes are interlaced with wire or cord and set into a shallow trench; if watered properly, the canes will take root. Such a fence can be quite impenetrable, keeping rabbits and similar pests out of a veggie or flower garden.


Antipodean Curmudgeon said...

Seeing those shots reminds me of yesteryear Ariz Hwy mags and for some reason Reg Manning!


Anonymous said...

Huzzah! The desert in bloom! It is amazing to see ocotillo fences on ranches. No coyote is going after the chickens when surrounded with one of those mini-fortresses.

Thanks, GrannyJ! Will be waiting to see more pix of the blooming desert.

~Anon in AV

TomboCheck said...

as always GJ - great post!

Granny J said...

bro -- I'll bet they never told you about that spiral arrangement, tho!

anon av -- the ocotillo fence idea is really a very splendid concept, isn't it? Poor hungry coyotes.

tombo -- more desert on its way. I decided that it was best to break it into several parts...

You Know Where You Are With said...


We do have an ocotillo at the ranch, at 4,200 feet. Just one that does quite well for itself, growing near a south-facing rock.

Their blooms are the painted fingernails of the desert, I think.

meggie said...

So many interesting posts to catch up here Granny! I love this story, & would like one of those prickly fences, if I had livestock to protect.
I love your latest owl!! I collect owls too.
The beads are all lovely.
Magnificent sculpture of the mountain lion!

Granny J said...

ykwyaw -- welcome back from yr new home. Is that ocotillo from the nursery or did it land there all by itself?

meggie -- our world here is just full of wonderful things to write about and picture. I love it! Just glad that you are enjoying it too.

Warren said...

I really like ocotillos in the sonoran desert -- when they are leafless and dry they remind me that rain will come again; after the rain has left, they carry memories of the the recent rain with their leaves. No other sonoran plant *always* reminds me of rain when I see one. Nice pics!

Granny J said...

warren -- a very nice message to read down in the desert.

manningsh said...

My husband dearly wants to return to his beloved Sonora desert to see the ocotillo bloom this spring. Can you give us a window of opportunity, please? He's from Fry, AZ and went to Tomstone Union High School!

Thank you, from frigid Wisconsin in November

Granny J said...

manningsh -- brr! I don't like to think of Midwestern winter weather, having spent many years in Chicago! For ocotillo, I'd suggst mid-March to mid-April. That's presuming that we get decent winter moisture. Maybe a tad earlier for the Tombstone area.

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