Coyote Bush aka Baccharis (12 photos)

My appreciation for Baccharis Broom has grown quite a bit ever since I learned more about it when I took one of the classes with the California Chaparral Institute to become a Certified Chaparral Naturalist.

One of the field exercises was to “experience” and describe a plant while blindfolded. The other class members in my group led me to a Baccharis and I described to them how the plant and leaves felt and how it smelled. Maybe that’s how we bonded, the Baccharis and I? :-)

These plants are evergreen and while a lot of the smaller shrubs in sagebrush habitat almost completely dry out during the summer, Baccharis keeps its nice and vibrant bright green. Pretty amazing. And if you take walks in chaparral and coastal sagebrush habitat during the months of October and November you’ll easily be able to see what makes Baccharis Broom special to me: while most other plants are all dry & hanging in there waiting for the first winter rains, Baccharis blooms, right now as I write this, and provides food for bees and other insects.

The plants produce an abundance of flowers that turn into feathery light seeds. The wind will take them away. The almost white flowers and the seeds are quite a beautiful sight. Backlit on cold November mornings they almost look like hoarfrost.

I hope the photos in the gallery capture the beauty of this plant adequately. Click on any thumbnail to open the image larger in the slideshow viewer:

 

Baccharis is also known as Coyote Bush, Chaparral Broom, Greasewood… and probably any other combination of these words that you can think of. :) There are two varieties of them here in Southern California: Baccharis pilularis and Baccharis sarothroides. The plants are also dioecious, which means that the male and female flowers are on separate plants.

They’re quite prolific and seem to be able to establish themselves easily in many places, including rather poor soils and exposed spots (give them three square feet of soil between freeway lanes and they’ll start to grow). Their adaptation to Southern California summers makes them a nice choice for cultivation and usage in drought tolerant gardening as well.

While the male and female can be kept apart relatively easily in October and November by looking at their flowers, B. pilularis and B. sarothroides are not that easy to tell apart. In general, B. sarothroides has smaller leaves that are sometimes hard to even identify as such, they’re very spiny. This is the variety that also grows in the desert, so it’s more adapted to conserving water.

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2 Responses

  1. Alexander, I find many of your posts inspiring — this one is really special. Your celebration of this common local shrub is a perfect illustration of why the California Chaparral Institute’s Naturalist Certification classes are so rich.

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