How does a plant set thorns? Do they grow out of the stems in a separate stage? Do they appear overnight? (I’d believe almost anything about the octotillo).
During the last two weeks my octotillo went into a sudden growth spurt, and I saw, for the first time, how the thorns are formed.
The first thing that happens in the growth spurt is that the stem lengthens and new leaves set. There are two different kind of leaves, and the first ones that set are odd. They have long stems and the fat part of the leaf bends at an odd angle.
The leaf stems are green, but they quickly turn thick, brown and . . . sharp. The leaf ends drop off, leaving the sharp thorns on the stem.
And then, almost at the same time as the thorns are forming, small new leaves form at the base of the thorns. They are the real leaves of the ocotillo. They will stay until it becomes too dry to sustain them.
I’ll leave you to see all the metaphor in the ocotillo–how they form protection that looks like a helpless piece of the plant. How thorns aren’t always sharp. They start out as stems, bendable. They harden with time, based on what the plant knows already. And then the leaves come out, at the base, to soften the look of the plant. That should fill your journal for several days.
—Quinn McDonald keeps a nature journal because it’s just like real life.