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What is Fouquieria?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree

Fouquieria is a genus classification given to a group of desert plants that thrive in arid climates. This particular genus is shared by 11 different types of plants commonly found in the southwestern parts of the United States. They are characterized by their slim and spiky stems and have broad leaves located under their spikes. Some species produce flowers in white or shades of red and depend on hummingbirds, bees, and moths for pollination. Although some species loosely resemble thin cactus plants and retain water like cacti, they are not related to the Cactaceae family.

The plants that fall under the Fouquieria genus are classified as succulent plants. Unlike most types of plants, they are able to retain large quantities of water in their roots, stems, and leaves. This allows them to adapt to the minimal amount of rainfall experienced in deserts. Their ability to retain water also lends them a swollen and fleshy appearance, which is why they are sometimes called fat plants.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

One of the most common plant species that falls under this genus is the Fouquieria columnaris. Known as the boojum tree, it is usually found in the deserts around the Baja California peninsula area. It can grow up to around 65 feet (20 m) in height, with its trunk spanning about 9 inches (24 cm) in diameter. The indigenous Seri people living in the area believe that touching a boojum tree can bring about strong winds. For this reason, the boojum tree is often left alone.

The Fouquieria splendens is another plant species that falls in this genus. It is found in the southwestern region of the United States and in certain parts of northern Mexico. This desert plant, more popularly known as the octillo plant, can grow up to 33 feet (10 m) in height. Octillo flowers can be eaten fresh with salads or dried and used to make herbal teas. The long stems can be used to make walking sticks, which is why this plant is also often called a Jacob’s staff.

Other species that belong to this genus are often used as ornamental plants. The Fouquieria macdougallii is one of them. This spiky shrub is found in many parts of Mexico, and it is often referred to as the Mexcian tree. They can grow up to 24 feet (7 m) in height. It is popular among some landscapers because of its bright red flowers, which bloom three times a year.

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