Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A cactuslike tree (Fouquieria splendens) of Mexico and the southwest United States, having clusters of scarlet tubular flowers.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any of various succulent plants unrelated to the cactus, in the genus Fouquieria, living in Central America or the southwest United States.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In the southwestern United States, northern Mexico, and Lower California, a name applied to several species of Fouquieria, especially to F. splendens, a shrub which grows in arid, stony soil, and which has many spiny stems terminating in slender panicles of red flowers.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. desert shrub of southwestern United States and Mexico having slender naked spiny branches that after the rainy season put forth foliage and clusters of red flowers

Etymologies

American Spanish, diminutive of ocote, a Mexican pine, from Nahuatl ocotl, pitch pine.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From American Spanish ocotillo, from ocote. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • In his dusty yard stands his nephew, Ben Erskine, a boy just past the threshold of adolescence, tall for his age, as lean as one of the ocotillo wands that fence the yard.

    Excerpt: Crossers by Philip Caputo

  • I went to the spiky bushes—ocotillo, was that the name?

    To Fetch a Thief

  • We move through scrubby pines until we emerge onto a scene of blooming cacti, thorny ocotillo plants with licks of flame shooting from their tips, slithering lizards, and brown rabbits whose long ears have been adapted to circulate blood and keep them cool.

    In the Fullness of Time

  • The rain sweeps over the thirsty silent basins of yucca and mesquite and cardón cactus, over the slopes of ocotillo and acacia.

    Kook

  • Vegetation is a sparse, but diverse, shrub cover that includes creosote bush, white brittlebush, white bursage, and occasional Sonoran desert elements, such as ocotillo.

    Ecoregions of Nevada (EPA)

  • At the base of the mountains, on the gentle rocky slopes called bajadas, the vegetation is dominated by paloverde, ocotillo, and saguaro, but bitterbrush is also a common shrub.

    American Semidesert and Desert Province (Bailey)

  • Yucca, sotol, lechuguilla, ocotillo, and cacti now dominate the rocky slopes below 5500 feet.

    Ecoregions of Texas (EPA)

  • Vegetation includes mostly desert shrubs, such as sotol, lechuguilla, yucca, ocotillo, lotebush, tarbush, and pricklypear, with a sparse intervening cover of black grama and other grasses.

    Ecoregions of Texas (EPA)

  • Well known are the treelike saguaro cactus, the prickly pear cactus, the ocotillo, creosote bush, and smoke tree.

    Tropical-Subtropical Desert Division (Bailey)

  • Another remarkable plant found in the Sonora desert is the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), which may remain leafless during the coldest months of winter but experiences five or six leafy periods throughout the year.

    Sonoran desert

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Comments

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  • Interesting--I'd never heard of this plant before.

    July 14, 2007

  • From wiki:
    The ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens - also called the coachwhip, Jacob's staff, and the vine cactus) is a curious, and unique desert plant of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of large dead sticks, although closer examination reveals that the stems are partly green. When rain comes, the plant quickly becomes lush with small (2-4 cm) ovate leaves, which may remain for weeks or even months.

    July 14, 2007