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Ocotillo in Joshua Tree National Park

Or Fouquieria splendens is also known as coachwhip, candlewood, slimwood, desert coral, Jacob’s staff, Jacob cactus, and vine cactus although it’s not actually a true cactus. It is native to the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert in southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico.


What’s cool about Ocotillo is its multiple uses. According to Wikipedia:

  • Individual ocotillo stems are sometimes used as poles as a fencing material in their native region, and often take root to form a living fence or hedge.
  • Due to their light weight and interesting pattern, ocotillo branches have been used for canes or walking sticks.


  • Fresh flowers are sometimes used in salads and have a tangy flavor.
  • Flowers are collected, dried, and used for herbal teas.
  • According to Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West (a book published in 1989 by Museum of New Mexico Press), a fresh bark tincture can be made by chopping or snipping freshly removed bark into 1/2-inch pieces. It is said to be useful for those symptoms that arise due to fluid congestion and to be absorbed from the intestines into the mesenteric lymph system by way of the lacteals of the small intestinal lining. This is believed to stimulate better visceral lymph drainage into the thoracic duct and improve dietary fat absorption into the lymph system.


  • Bathing in water that contains crushed flowers or roots has been used to relieve fatigue.
  • Native Americans are known to place the flowers and roots of ocotillo over fresh wounds to slow bleeding.
  • Ocotillo is also used to alleviate coughing, achy limbs, varicose veins, urinary tract infections, cervical varicosities, and benign prostate growths