Stem succulent to 30 feet tall
Semi-arid spiny desert
Living Desert Location:
Clusters of tiny white flowers are borne at the tip of the spine-covered stems on separate male and female plants.
African ocotillo plant bears a strong resemblance to the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) of the American southwest, but is actually from Madagascar. This is an example of convergent evolution – unrelated plants adapting similar shapes and survival strategies in response to the same environmental conditions. It is estimated that 80% of Madagascar’s 10,000 plant species are found nowhere else in the world. The eleven species of the endemic family Didiereaceae comprise a dominant component of the ‘spiny desert’ found on the island’s semi-arid southwest. African ocotillo grows in areas that may receive no rain for more than a year.
Human activity has resulted in the degradation of over 80% of the Madagascan landscape. The rapidly disappearing forests of Alluaudia are cut down to provide fodder for cattle, for building materials and for the making of charcoal.
African ocotillo starts out as a sprawling mass of tangled, thorn covered branches that matures into a vertical tower of stems reaching over 30 feet high. The small, rounded, succulent green leaves clothe the stems during the warm wet season and drop off during any lengthy dry periods, or with the onset of winter. Young plants are susceptible to frost damage. The thicker stems of more mature plants have tolerated temperatures down to 20 degrees F at The Living Desert.