The Fouquieriaceae Page

In our fieldwork throughout Mexico, we've come across all of the species of the family Fouquieriaceae. The only genus in the family, Fouquieria, has some 11 species, and we offer photographs of them here. Fouquieria is an interesting genus because not only are most of the species  found in Mexico, and most are endemic to Mexico. Just one, F. splendens, reaches the US, and another, F. formosa, reaches Guatemala. The rest are restricted to the drylands of Mexico, from dry tropical forest habitats to warm deserts.  Some have extremely restricted ranges whereas others are widespread. The family is of interest to us because of its extreme variation in life form, from cane-like shrubs to umbrella like trees, to monster bottle trees. Make sure also to visit the Irekani portal, where I also have many photos of this family (search "Fouquieria").

Fouquieria formosa

Fouquieria formosa habit
This species is widely distributed in tropical dry forests from the upper Balsas Depression to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to Guatemala. It is sometimes grown as a living fence. This is the species that most resembles a conventional tree. 
Fouquiera formosa habit 2 The images above and to the left, as well as the flowers below, are from the  tropical dry forest of southwestern Puebla
Fouquieria formosa flowers Like most species of Fouquieria, F. formosa often flowers when leafless.
Fouquieria formosa flower The flowers of this species are distinctive for their bright orange-red color. The images to the left and above are from the tropical dry forest of southwestern Puebla.
Fouquieria formosa in Oaxaca The photo on the left is from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southeastern Oaxaca, in view of the Pacific Ocean.
Fouquieria ochoterenae
grove of Fouquieria ochoterenae
This remarkable species is endemic to a small area in southwestern Puebla state where it forms spectacular groves of huge, umbrella shaped spiny trees reminiscent of the Didiereaceae forests of Madagascar.
Fouquieria ochoterenae bark
The trunk of F. ochoterenae is one of the most beautiful in the genus. In the wet season, the trunk is usually green with snazzy gray stripes. In the dry season, the green tends to turn orange, as in this photo. The trunk is often home to species of the bromeliad Tillandsia.
Fouquieria ochoterenae flowers
The flowers of F. ochoterenae are very distinctive, each having a short, deep red corolla surmounted by a shaving brush of stamens.
Fouquieria ochoterenae with leaves at new locality
Fouquieria ochoterenae growing with Bursera longipes (at left) at a newly discovered locality for the species north of its better known haunts.
Fouquieria purpusii
Fouquieria purpusii habit
With its massive green trunk and spiny branches that remind me of the trail of sparks left by skyrockets,  F. purpusii is a very striking element of the dry tropical forest of the Puebla-Oaxaca border region of the Valley of Tehuacán. The plant grows here and there on limestone ridges in small groves. In these photos you can see some of the plants that grow with this species, including some Bursera species as well as  the columnar cactus Cephalocereus columna-trajani.  
Fouquieria purpusii habit
Unlike other spectacularly ornamental plants of the Tehuacán Valley, such as Beaucarnea gracilis, it is still common to find juveniles and even small seedlings F. purpusii. The bark of this species is wonderfully varied from plant to plant and along the length of the trunk. The spines on young stems give way to gray corky plates amid a lovely green rind.
Fouquieria purpusii juvenile
Fouquieria purpusii habit    Fouquieria purpusii habit    Fouquieria purpusii
Fouquieria purpusii seedling Fouquieria purpusii bark lower trunk    Fouquieria purpusii bark upper trunk
Fouquieria leonilae

Fouquieria leonilae
This species is remarkable for having the smallest spines of the genus. It grows in dense tropical dry forest in the central Balsas Depression in Guerrero State, and closely resembles the Bursera and Jatropha shrubs and trees that it grows with. It has deep red flowers borne at the tips of the branches.

Fouquieria columnaris

Fouquieria columnaris habit
Endemic to the Sonoran Desert of the Baja California Peninsula and a tiny part of Sonora, the cirio or Boojum tree creates one of the most remarkable biological landscapes on earth. It has two kinds of stems: massive succulent trunks filled with water storing tissue, and skinny lateral branches clothed with spines and small leaves during the brief biannual rains. 
Fouquieria columnaris habit
Fouqieria columnaris habit    Fouquieria columnaris seedling    Fouquieria columnaris despeinado
Fouquieria splendens ssp. splendens

Fouquieria splendends ssp. splendens The ocotillo is the most widely known species of the genus because it has a very wide range in northern Mexico and the southwestern US. The photo on the left is from Arizona. 
Fouquieria splendens ssp. splendens The ocotillo is famed for leafing out in response to even slight rainfall. This area of the central Baja California desert had received a thorough soaking and all the ocotillos were green.
Fouquieria splendens ssp. campanulata
Fouquieria splendens ssp. campanulata
This is the southern subspecies of ocotillo. It is entirely restricted to Mexico, where it can be found as far south as Hidalgo state. This subspecies tends to be more spreading and less erect than ssp. splendens and is often covered with Tillandsia. This photo is from Guanajuato where the plants were growing on sheer limestone cliffs. 
Fouqieria splendens ssp. campanulata
In some places, such as this Guanajuato hillside, F. splendens ssp. campanulata forms dense, spiny stands.
Fouquieria shrevei

Fouquieria shrevei
With its widly upward-arching stems, this small shrubby species cuts a strange figure on the Coahuila gypsum flats that are its only known habitat. 
Fouquieria shrevei stem
Fouquieria shrevei has very spiny branches and extremely distinctive orange stems.
Fouquieria macdougalii

Fouquieria macdougalii
Another tree-like species, F. macdougalii is from the mainland Sonoran Desert. This photo is from northern Sinaloa, where this Fouquieria (on the right) was growing amid Bursera (the tree on the left) and the columnar cactus Stenocereus thurberi.
Fouquieria burragei

This shrubby species grows only in southern Baja California, near the Gulf of California on the peninsula and on some of the Gulf islands. The plant has very distinctive and beautiful pale pink to white flowers.
Fouquieria fasciculata
Fouquieria fasciculata trunk in habitat
One of the most remarkably odd plants you will ever see anywhere, Fouquieria fasciculata has a massive, bloated trunk that tapers sharply into spiny branches. It is shown growing here in habitat with Astrophytum ornatum at lower right, and Cephalocereus senilis at far right.
bloated trunks of Fouquieria fasciculata
The species grows only on steep slopes and canyons in the Metztitlán area of Hidalgo west to ajdacent Querétaro. This is a beautiful and fascinating pocket of dry tropical vegetation well above 1000 m in elevation. Here they are covered in epiphytes Tillandsia recurvata and T. usneoides.
Fouquieria fasciculata leaves and inflorescence in habitat
The species is easilty distinguished from the other central Mexican bottle Fouquieria, F. purpusii by its rounded leaves and fine, reddish spines.
Fouquieria fasciculata inflorescence
Fouquieria fasciculata readily produces its sprays of small white flowers. Fouquieria purpusii and F. columnaris also produce white flowers. These flowers have been pollinated and their ovaries are growing into fruits.

...Somewhere I have photos of F. diguetii, which I will post should I ever come across them.

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Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Circuito Exterior s/n, Ciudad Universitaria
Copilco, Coyoacán A. P. 70-367
C. P. 04510, México, D. F.

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all material © 2010 Mark E Olson