Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ocotillo turning orange

with 21 comments

Ocotillo Turning Orange 0538

Many desert plants are opportunistic, and that includes ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), which you’ve seen here in several recent posts. When there’s rain, which isn’t often, ocotillo quickly puts out leaves along its slender (but thorny) branches to do some fast photosynthesizing. Once the leaves’ work is done, they soon dry out in the way you see them orangefully* doing here in Big Bend National Park on November 23, 2015.


* I may be able to lay claim to this adverb. When I searched for orangefully on Google I got asked if I meant orangebelly, orange funny, orangeville, or orange lily. No, I didn’t mean any of those things; I meant orangefully, for which I got no hits. I did, however, separately get some hits for orangeful.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2016 at 4:53 AM

21 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Claim it!
    I didn’t realize o. turned as the weather got colder. Interesting plant.


    January 2, 2016 at 9:41 AM

    • Ocotillo leaves appear after significant rain, which is brief in the desert, and then they dry out and fall off fairly soon. The falling off, as I understand it, isn’t a consequence of cold.

      I’m happy to claim orangefully.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2016 at 8:31 PM

  2. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this plant. I like it, very much. You might be interested in the first comment on this page. If I ever were heading that far west, I might search out the area.

    The ocotillo reminded me of the crown of thorns plant (Euphorbia milii) because of its leaves, and its thorny stems, but ocotillo isn’t a cactus, and the crown of thorns isn’t native to this country, so the resemblance is entirely superficial. On the other hand, I did read that, in transplanting, ocotillo requires the same directional care as a cactus: that is, the side that’s been facing the sun needs to be facing the sun after transplantation. Even the apparently hardiest plants have their needs.


    January 2, 2016 at 10:32 AM

    • When you get out to the Trans-Pecos (and I expect you will), you’ll see plenty of ocotillos, which are common out there. The USDA map shows the species in Val Verde Country, so even a day trip a couple of hours west of your usual Hill Country haunt should introduce you to some.

      Regarding the comment you referred to, I did see ocotillos in Arizona but I can’t remember if they were significantly larger than the ones in west Texas. Interesting about transplanted ocotillos requiring the same orientation they originally had.

      The Euphorbia genus is huge, with species in many parts of the world, but I’m not aware of any Texas species having thorns.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2016 at 8:45 PM

  3. A very beautiful opportunist it is, too.


    January 2, 2016 at 11:43 AM

    • Especially when flowers adorn the tips of the stalks. Our November visit didn’t coincide with a flowering period, but I did photograph some flowers the previous year:


      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2016 at 8:47 PM

      • Oh that is nice.


        January 3, 2016 at 9:43 AM

        • The irony is that the ocotillo specimen at Monahans was apparently planted there because ocotillo doesn’t natively grow that far northeast in Texas.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 3, 2016 at 10:18 AM

          • Interesting. I wonder who would have done that? I’ve been reading that Native Americans had a lot more to do with the plants that Europeans found throughout America than was formerly supposed.


            January 4, 2016 at 8:14 AM

            • I think in this case the explanation is simple. The ocotillo I photographed in 2014 was outside the headquarters of Monahans Sandhills State Park, so I assume the park people planted it.

              As for your general point, however, I’ve read the same thing. Think about how people here in prehistoric times developed maize and spread it around the continent.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 4, 2016 at 8:28 AM

  4. I have seen the desert bloom after a rain once in January, it was truly amazing.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    January 2, 2016 at 12:54 PM

    • This past spring Big Bend was reported to have produced the most wildflowers in a generation, but unfortunately I didn’t visit there then. Maybe someday I’ll see the phenomenon you saw.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2016 at 8:49 PM

  5. Orangefully – I like that 🙂 I shall credit you if I ever use it !!!

    Tina Schell

    January 2, 2016 at 7:01 PM

  6. As you know, I like to make up the occasional word, so I admire orangefully. And right to the last letter Kindle autofill had nothing orangeful to suggest. However, now that I have typed orangefully it is now in its dictionary and did suggest that for orangeful.

    Steve Gingold

    January 2, 2016 at 7:13 PM

    • I’ve appreciated your making up words too: what fun. I didn’t know that Kindle stores words the way you’ve described. I used to add words and proper names to Microsoft Word’s glossary, but I haven’t done so for over a decade.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2016 at 8:53 PM

  7. Love the picture, thank you for sharing 😉


    January 2, 2016 at 8:17 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: