Scientific name: Fouquieria splendens. The ocotillo is one of the most unique plants in the desert west. It looks like it could be straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its whiplike branches radiating out of a central base. This plant is very adapted to the desert climate, appearing dead until rain hits. It then puts out green leaves and bright red flowers. As soon as the conditions dry, the ocotillo will immediately drop its leaves to prevent moisture loss. Ocotillos are found 5,000 feet or lower throughout all the deserts of the southwest.
The Cahuilla Indians eat the seeds and flowers.

A delicious sun tea can be made with the flowers also.
In the southwest, living ocotillo fences are commonly used for protection and beauty. The stems are cut and then re-planted in the ground side by side to create and impenetrable fence. The dead branches are used in adobe construction as well.
Medicinally, the tea of the bark is an excellent lymphatic herb. It has also been used traditionally as a poultice to reduce swelling and inflammation. The ocotillo is a protected plant in Arizona. If you are going to utilize it you must get it from private land.
DeeAnn Tracy