the "real" ocotillo
IT'S NOT A CACTUS...
but a plant!
Fouquieria splendens, pronouced "o-ko-tee'-yo", is a native of the Sonoran Desert. Although it is dry most of the year and has spines up its branches, the Ocotillo is not a cactus since it grows true leaves. The plant is funnel shaped, with long, straight, mostly un-branched stems. It's habitat is dry, rocky slopes and grows as tall as 9 meters (30 feet). Leaves are bright green and appear after a rain storm. Bright red flowers grow in bunches up to 25 cm (10 inches) long at the end of the stems. The leaves and flowers die off as the soil dries. The bloom cycle may be repeated several times a year depending on the timing of rain storms.
-- from the Sierra Club Guide to the Southwest
The Ocotillo (oh-koh-TEE-yo) is a NOTHIN'. You'll hear it called a "Monkey Tail Cactus", but it's not a cactus. And it's not a lily. It's not closely related to any other plant of the Southwest desert. South of California, in old Mexico, it has one kin, the Boogum Tree, which is an even stranger plant. These teo belong to a sscanty family which the botany boys (in desparation) named "Fouquieriaceae"-- whatever that means. To ordinary folks the Ocotillo has more aliases than a check artist. Besides "monkey tail" it is known as "candlewood", "coach whip", "Jacob's staff", etc.
-- from "What Kinda Cactus Izzat?" by Reg Manning