Fouquieriaceae DC.

This family is accepted.


Every, J.L.R. (2009). Neotropical Fouquieriaceae.


Xerophytic shrubs, small trees or cactus-like columnar-stemmed succulents, long and short shoots present, long shoots armed with petiolar spines 2-45mm long, short shoots axillary to spines producing secondary clustered leaves that do not form spines. Leaves alternate , simple , clustered or single, succulent , exstipulate , almost sessile or petiolate , margins entire (sometimes revolute ), venation pinnate , both surfaces glabrous or slightly pubescent below. Inflorescences determinate, terminal or axillary , corymbs, panicles, racemes or spikes; rachis occasionally coloured (maroon, pink, purple, red or seldom green). Flowers actinomorphic , bisexual , showy, with two prophylls, sessile to pedicellate; calyx with 5 sepals, these free , imbricate , unequal (two outer lobes smaller than the inner three), persistent in fruit ; corolla 5 lobed , tubular, lobes imbricate ; stamens 10-16(-23), unevenly exserted , filaments free or slightly fused, slightly adnate to corolla base, occasionally with a puberulent , red-coloured basal ligulate spur, anthers dorsifixed, longitudinally dehiscent ; gynoecium syncarpous, ovary superior , carpels 3, locule 1, style 1, three-branched or entire , exserted or included in the corolla , ovules 6-16(20). Fruits loculicidal, dehiscent capsules with three, thick, coriaceous valves. Seeds 3-13(-18), winged (formed by a dense fringe of unicellular trichomes), flattened, 8-20mm in total length.

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Found growing outside the floristic region from southern U.S.A to the north Mexican desert in areas receiving 50-350 mm rainfall.
  • Species in southern Mexico grow in deciduous tropical forest and arid tropical scrub averaging mostly 400-700mm rainfall.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Long, vicious spines on the longer stems.
  • Primary leaves on the long shoots have long petioles.
Other important characters
  • Flower colour varies amongst the taxa as do the number of stamens, the degree of corollalimb reflexion and their pattern of arrangement in the inflorescences.
  • Intermediate between typical xeromorphic types (neither stem succulents nor shrubs).
  • Woody or succulenthabit and also both woody and succulent parts on the same plant.
  • Deciduous during drought periods between the rains (leaves can re appear in as little as 48hrs after rainfall).
  • Short shoots axillary to spines producing secondary clustered (almost sessile) leaves which do not form spines.
  • Brightly coloured flowers: yellow (subgen. Idria (Kellogg) Henrickson) or red (subgen. Fouquieria Kunth).
  • Style three-branched (subgen. Fouquieria and subgen. Bronnia Kunth) or entire (subgen. Idria).
General Description
Number of genera

1: Fouquieria Kunth with eleven species.

  • Molecular analysis has complemented the work done by Henrickson (1972) regarding the intra-familial relationships, recognizing the three subgenera as monophyletic groups:-Subgenus Bronnia and Idria comprise the succulent species-Subgenus Fouquieria contains eight woody species
  • Nash (1903) treated Fouquieria and Idria as separate genera, separating them by degrees of style fusion, stamen exerstion/inclusion, habit and corolla colour.
General notes
  • Also known as the Ocotillo and Candlewood family.
  • Trade in many species is restricted by CITES due to the small populations.
  • Fouquieria owes its name to P.E. Fouquier, a Parisian professor of medicine.
  • Both insect- (entomophilic) and bird- (ornithophilic) pollinated species are found, depending on the shape, size and colour of flowers.
  • Trichomes at the base of the stamens are thought to achieve two things: firstly they reduce the evaporation of nectar from the base of the flower, and secondly they draw the nectar (by means of capillary & action) up and away from the sensitive ovary, protecting it from the beaks of hummingbirds.
  • Waxy exudates from F. shrevei I.M.Johnst. are said to produce an agreeable aroma when burnt.
  • F. splendens Engelm. has a dynamic range of uses from providing a quick snack in the form of the nectariferous flowers, to use as living fences and as a boot wax.
  • F. columnaris (Kellogg) Curran is used to provide fence posts.
  • The bark of F. macdougalii Nash has been used as a soap.
  • The majority of the Fouquieriaceae species are endemic to mainland Mexico.
Notes on delimitation
  • Currently placed in the Ericales as sister to Polemoniaceae (Stevens 2008).
  • Has been previously placed in the Violales sensu Cronquist.
  • Included in its own order, the Fouquieriales sensu Takhatajan ex Reveal.
Important literature

Henrickson J. 1972 A taxonomic revision of the Fouquieriaceae. Aliso 7. (4): 439-537

Heywood, V. H., Brummitt, R. K., Culham, A. and Seberg, O. (eds.). Flowering plant families of the world, p. 150. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Kubitzki, K. 2004a. Fouquieriaceae. Pp. 1-11. In Kubitzki, K. (ed.). Families and genera of vascular plants. Volume 6. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Maas, P. J. M. & Westra, L. Y. Th. 2005. Neotropical Plant Families. 3rd ed. P. 247. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K.G., Ruggell.

Nash, G. V. 1903. A Revision of the Family Fouquieriaceae. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 30(8): 449-459.

Schultheis, L. M. and Baldwin, B. G. 1999. Molecular Phylogenetics of Fouquieriaceae: Evidence from Nuclear rDNA ITS Studies. American Journal of Botany 86(4): 578-589.

Smith, N. 2004. Fouquieriaceae. Pp. 161-2. In: Smith, N., Mori, S. A., Henderson, A., Stevenson, D. W. and Heald, S. V. (eds.). Flowering Plants of the Neotropics. The New York Botanical Garden, Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Stevens, P. F. (2008). Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9 onwards.

Watson, L. and Dallwitz, M.J. (1992 onwards). The Families of Flowering Plants: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. Version: 14th December 2000.

Fouquieriaceae DC. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Prodr. [A. P. de Candolle] 3: 349. 1828 (1828)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016)

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Neotropikey

    Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.