Fouquieria splendens - Engelm.
Ocotillo
Other Common Names: ocotillo
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Fouquieria splendens Engelm. (TSN 502645)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.137277
Element Code: PDFOU01010
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Other flowering plants
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Violales Fouquieriaceae Fouquieria
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Fouquieria splendens
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 15Dec1999
Global Status Last Changed: 07Feb2000
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Fouquieria splendens is a common species throughout its relatively wide range in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It is slow-growing and has multiple uses, some of which involve wild-collection. It is also locally threatened by urbanization and development. Despite this, it appears to be relatively robust and not generally threatened at this time. However, land use management practices (e.g., use of fire) may impact populations in the future. At the present time Fouquieria splendens appears to be sufficiently common to be secure.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4?

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Arizona (SNR), California (SNR), Nevada (S2), New Mexico (SNR), Texas (SNR)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Fouquieria splendens occurs in the United States in Arizona, southern California, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas. In Mexico it occurs in Sonora, Cohuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo (Mason and Mason 1987) and northern Baja California (Juanita Ladyman, personal observation).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: More than 100. Arizona: >20; New Mexico: >20; California: >20; Texas: >20; Nevada: unknown. Also in Mexico.

Population Size Comments: The typical number of individuals per population is more than 1000; some populations extend over more than a square mile.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Fouquieria splendens is primarily used for landscaping and does not appear to be grown for its medicinal value. Plants sold in reputable nurseries are obtained from private land (e.g., ranches) under permit. There are typically two types of products: smaller plants in one gallon pots and large bare-root "belt and burlapped" individuals. Although the plants transplant well if there are sufficient roots attached, many that are dug are not treated well and two thirds or more of those dug up are likely not to survive. The commercial volume is unknown but is estimated by a person knowledgeable within the trade to be several thousand per year around the Van Horn and Presidio regions in western Texas. Whole plants are always sold. Propagation has been reported using cuttings although conversations with horticulturists indicate that this is less easy than the literature indicates. The plant can also be grown from seed but is a relatively slow grower.

In Mexico, F. splendens is used as fencing, and extracted resin from harvested plants may be exported to other countries (Tull 1987).

Urban and agricultural development and mineral extraction are significant threats to some populations.

Wildfires may be a threat to Fouquieria splendens. Although it can sprout from the root crown following damage from fire, its sprouting ability is probably dependent on fire severity (White 1969). Seedlings are not known to establish in recently burned areas (Mathews 1994) and its seeds are unlikely survive for long in the soil (Zedler 1981). In fact, burning has been suggested as a control method for woody species, such as Fouquieria splendens, in desert grasslands (Mathews 1994).

The endangered Lucifer hummingbird's habitat in New Mexico centers on slopes and adjacent canyons in arid montane areas dominated by Fouquieria splendens and agave species (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 1991)

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: This species appears to be generally secure. There seems to be no significant change in the distribution and abundance of this species within the recent past. There is indication that as grasslands have declined Fouquieria splendens habitat has increased. However, considering the amount of urban development within portions of its habitat the actual area occupied may not have changed significantly.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Fouquieria splendens occurs in the United States in Arizona, southern California, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas. In Mexico it occurs in Sonora, Cohuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo (Mason and Mason 1987) and northern Baja California (Juanita Ladyman, personal observation).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AZ, CA, NM, NV, TX

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Fouquieria splendens (ocotillo) is an erect shrub with several spiny ascending stems that grow to at least 3m tall (and ofen much higher; numerous floras give 9-10m as an upper limit). The leaves, oblanceolate to oblong-obovate and only 10-25mm long, are present for a brief time during the summer (generally soon after a substantial rain). The bright scarlet flowers are very showy. They are arranged in a 8-25 cm long panicle. Each flower has a tubular corolla, five petals, and 10-15 exerted stamens. The seed capsule is ovoid and incompletely 3-celled. The flat seeds are white with a fringe of hair-like filaments on the margin. Flowering is from March to June depending upon latitude (Martin and Hutchins 1980).
Ecology Comments: Seedlings are rarely found on disturbed soils (Yeaton et al. 1977) but are found under the canopy of mature plants (McAuliffe 1988, Young and Young 1986). Fouquieria splendens is a long-lived stable element of desert vegetation but with apparently specialized requirements for seed germination that limit its capacity to exploit opportunities for population expansion (Zedler 1981). Estimates of its life span range from less than 60 to greater than 72 years (Mathews 1994). It is likely that life span is related to its latitude and substrate.
Habitat Comments: Fouquieria splendens grows in shallow soils on mesas, outwash plains, and rocky slopes from sea level to as high as 6,700 feet (2,050m) elevation in the Guadalupe and Del Norte mountains of the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. Soils are generally rocky, shallow, and of limestone or granitic origin and are often underlain by caliche (Mathews 1994). The plan is often found on south-facing slopes. In Mexico it occurs in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts and in mesquite-grasslands (Mason and Mason 1987).
Economic Attributes
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Commercial Importance: Minor cash crop
Economic Uses: FOOD, MEDICINE/DRUG, LANDSCAPING
Production Method: Cultivated, Wild-harvested
Economic Comments: The resin and wax from ocotillo bark has been used for conditioning leather (Krochmal et al. 1954, Powell 1988, Vines 1960). Ocotillo fruits and flowers were eaten by the Cahuilla, and the Papago and Yavapai used nectars from the flowers as a delicacy (Moerman 1998). Roots were powdered by the Apache and used to treat wounds and painful swellings. They also bathed in an ocotillo root mixture to relieve fatigue (Krochmal et al. 1954, Moerman 1998, Powell 1998, Vines 1960). A beverage made from ocotillo flowers was also used for cough medicine (Vines 1960, Moerman 1998). It seems that all these uses are very localized, personal, or historic in the southwestern U.S. It is not known if ocotillo is more widely used today in Mexico.

Uses as a medicinal are likely only local. The plant is not significant in markets as a medicinal (Michael McGuffin, pers. comm. to Eric Nielsen, The Nature Conservancy).

Prices for this species were found as follows:

New Mexico: $9.00/1 gallon pot.

New Mexico: $60.00/bare root plant

According to local personnel from a national chain nursery, the prices are similar in other parts of the southwest U.S.

Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 15Dec1999
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Juanita A. R. Ladyman (12/99); rev. Eric Nielsen (1/00)

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Carter, J.L. 1997c. Trees and shrubs of New Mexico. Mimbres Publishing Co., Silver City, New Mexico. 534 pp.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Krochmal, A., S. Paur, and P. Duisberg. 1954. Useful native plants in the American southwestern deserts. Economic Botany 8: 3-20.

  • Matthews, R.F. 1994. Fouquieria splendens. In W.C. Fischer. Fire effects information system (database). U.S. Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Intermountain Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, Montana.

  • McAuliffe, J.R. 1988. Markovian dynamics of simple and complex desert plant communities. American Naturalist 131(4): 459-490.

  • New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. 1991. Handbook of species endangered in New Mexico. Santa Fe. 185pp.

  • Powell, A.M. 1988. Trees and shrubs of Trans-Pecos Texas, including Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. Big Bend Natural History Association, Big Bend National Park, Texas. 536 pp.

  • Powell, A.M. 1998. Trees and shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and adjacent areas. Univ. Texas Press, Austin. 498 pp.

  • Rathcke, B., and E.P. Lacey. 1985. Phenological patterns of terrestrial plants. Annual Review of Ecological Systems 16: 179-214.

  • Tull, D. 1998. Edible and useful plants of Texas and the southwest. University of Texas Press, Austin.

  • Vines, R.A. 1960. Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southwest. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas. xii + 1104 pp.

  • Waser, N.M. 1979. Pollinator availability as a determinant of flowering time in ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). Oecologia 39(1): 107-121.

  • White, L.D. 1969. Effects of a wildfire on several desert grassland shrub species. Journal of Range Management 22: 284-285.

  • Yeaton, R.I., J. Travis, and E. Gilinsky. 1977. Competition and spacing in plant communities: The Arizona upland association. Journal of Ecology 65: 587-595.

  • Young, J.A., and C.G. Young. 1986. Collecting, processing and germinating seeds of wildland plants. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon. 236 pp.

  • Zedler, P.H. 1981. Vegetation change in chaparral and desert communities in San Diego county, California. In D.C. West, H.H. Shugart, and D.B. Botkin (eds.). Forest succession: Concepts and application. Springer-Verlag, New York.

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