Waiting For Rain

The ocotillo is one of my favorite plants in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. It is designed to survive minimal rainfall and is drought resistant.  The cane-like branches of this shrub reach to the sky and dominate the landscape. It produces up to 100 branches from a shallow-rooted crown. I have seen ocotillo up to 30 feet tall and because there are so few trees in the desert, birds perch on its thorny branches and seek protection from predators. While biking I have come across huge flocks of doves that lift off as one when you get too close. The branches bob up and down after the weight of the birds have taken skyward and it is quite the display if the cane like branches are flowering. The thick leathery ovate leaves seem to grow over night after a rainstorm and it is not unusual for an ocotillo to leaf out and go dormant five times a year. The ocotillo’s bissexual, bright red-orange flowers are clustered at the tip of each stem and have a nectar-secreting gland on the flowering buds. A variety of insects and hummingbirds frequent the flowers and the green and red of the shrub add color and height to the desert landscape. They are wonderful to photograph and add a lot to the stark beauty of the desert because you can see through the thin branches and can place them in the foreground of the photograph. Anza Borrego is home to many ocotillo shrubs and when off roading, biking or hiking, they add a prehistoric graceful beauty to the otherwise low lying flora that hug the desert sand.

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