The Ocotillo Fence

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The Ocotillo Fence

The ocotillo cactus is a native of the Sonoran desert, which covers part of Northern Mexico and part of Southern Arizona.  The cactus is a beautiful plant either in bloom or dormant.  It grows from a center point much like a tuft of grass would and but can reach heights of 15 feet or more.  These large and long very thorny canes are what are harvested and put into an ocotillo fence.  An ocotillo fence is a line of the canes planted into the ground and wired together usually with only one to two inches distance between each cane.  The original idea of the fence was to keep hungry varmints from coming into the garden and eating all of the tasty morsels.  It not only works well, but the canes will take root and continuing growing, making it a living fence.

Ocotillo Close up
Ocotillo Fence

What brought this to mind was watching a man trying to get over an ocotillo fence into an abandoned house in southern Arizona.  He first tried grabbing the canes with gloves on, and by the look on his face the thorns penetrated his gloves.  He then took off his jacket and shirt and tossed the garments over the top of the five foot fence and tried to climb over.  He could not get a foothold on the fence to get to the top, and as he put weight on the fence it partially flexed and drew in canes from both the right and left which hit in on his bare back.  We could see that blood was drawn from over 200 feet away.  As the man removed his shirt and jacket from the fence, most of it came off but the fence retained some of the fabric to remind him who won the battle.  We were impressed with the durability of the fence, and its flexibility simply made it even more difficult to climb.  While we were impressed with the man’s tenacity, in the end he left without having scaled the fence.  I’m sure one could dig up the fence, use some sort of saw and wire clippers, or knock down the fence with a vehicle (don’t expect the tires to survive) — and while it’s not a “security fence,” it did a fine job on that day — and it looked damn good too.

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