So here’s the thing about ocotillo: it’s not nice. Oh, I grant you, it can be lovely to look at, especially when it’s blooming. It’s a wonderful desert plant, and I’m sure it’s ecologically important, and one or two in a xeroscaped yard look very classy and Southwestern indeed. However:
The Ocotillo is a bajada resident that can be relied on to bloom annually, even without leafing in particularly dry springs. It is an inverted, funnel-shaped desert plant with several woody, spiny, whip-like, straight branches angling outward from the base and rising as high as 20 feet.
Key word: spiny.
Not to mention whip-like.
So, yes, spiny (and whip-like). Roses have thorns, and crimson ocotillo spikes, Shakespeare might have said.* Except he didn’t, because a quick trip to the desert Southwest of the Americas wasn’t in his stars. I don’t even know if ocotillo had been named yet. But I’m relatively sure that the first European explorers in the Southwest didn’t miss it – it’s rather in your face.
And the Native American population had been familiar with the stuff for thousands of years: they were using it to make sweet summer drinks, candy, flour, footbaths, and medicine. Also, they built things with it. This is the desert. Wicked-sharp spines are no deterrent to clever people with limited plant resources.
Still. You don’t look at this stuff and think, “That would make an ideal chair.” Unless, of course, you are the most badass fucking hummingbird in the desert.
Seriously, that is a hardcore bird. The spines on an ocotillo could skewer it. Yet here it is, completely unconcerned, probably smirking at its would-be predators, although it’s hard to tell with beaks.
MoveableBookLady, who sent me this utterly fabulous photo, would like to know if any of you are wizard enough to identify the species. Here’s a crop that may give you a better shot at naming our badass.
So: desert Southwest hummingbird, pollinates ocotillo, uses them as lounge chairs, has a keen sense of the artistic. What is it?
*See Sonnet XXXV. People can babble about Hamlet and King Lear and whatever other play all they like, and quote “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” until I punch them in the face to make them stop, but it’s Sonnet XXXV that made me sit up and go, “Hullo, this William Shakespeare is definitely one badass fucking writer.” Convinced me the man deserved his rep, and that sonnets weren’t all limp and tired burblings about wuv, twue wuv. This shit cuts. Read it.