Maureen Wilks


Artist, Photographer, Writer

I was 11 years old when I first saw desert plants inside the large greenhouses at the Oxford Botanical Gardens. I always wanted to see these plants in their native environment. The sharp, spiny stemmed Ocotillo, one of the most distinctive plants of the desert, still thrills me when I come across a hillside of these wickedly spiky plants in full bloom.
In early March I was hiking across the river when I came across a hillside of Ocotillo plants. The rains had not yet come so the stems were bare. I photographed them against the brilliant blue sky, and used this image to play with until I had created the Ocotillo Skull.

It only takes a few days after spring or summer rains for shiny green leaves to sprout along the gray thorny branches that rise from a central base and bright tubular red flowers cluster at the tips of these lethal spikes, which can reach up to 15 feet high, and fan outward to a diameter of 10 feet.

​​Ocotillo Stem​​

12x15 in
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Ocotillo Skull