Coyote Brush

Coyote Brush © TCorelli

Chaparral Coyote Brush
Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea

Description (Jepson,

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)
  • Perennial, evergreen shrub
  • Leaves
    • Alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem) and ovate
    • Edged with coarse teeth
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) of clustered, cream-colored flowerheads
    • Male and female flowers on separate plants (dioecious)
    • Each flowerhead (see Sunflower family) is tightly packed with many, tiny unisexual flowers
      • Discoid male (staminate) flowerheads have 5-lobed disk flowers with showy yellow anthers
      • Disciform female (pistillate) flowerheads have 5-lobed disk flowers in the center and disk-like flowers with minute or missing rays rimming the edge
    • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is an achene (a single-seeded, dry fruit that does not split open)
    • Mature seed has white pappus (hair-like tufts) that give the female plant a “fluffy” look in fall-winter
  • Height to ~10 ft.


  • Native to California
    • Grows in coastal sage scrub, chaparral, oak woodlands, and mixed evergreen forests
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Grows slightly beyond California borders in Oregon and Baja California, Mexico
  • Grows at elevations to 2,000 ft.
Male Flowers (L), Female Flowers (M), Seeds (R)
© DSchiel (L, R), MWilson (M)

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Wildlife
    • Provides cover for birds, reptiles, and small mammals
    • Blooming period occurs during fall and winter, providing an abundance of pollen and nectar during a time of relative scarcity
    • Supports a great variety and number of arthropods, i.e. parasitoid wasps (Synopeas species), honey bees (Apis mellifera), and grey hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus)
      • One study found 291 species of insects, mites, and parasites associated with this shrub (Russo 2006)
    • Look for the host-specific bud gall created by the coyote-brush bud-gall midge (Rhopalomyia californica), resembling a little cauliflower or cabbage
      • Galls are abnormal, tumorlike growths induced by parasites (e.g. insects, mites, or bacteria)
      • The midge co-opts the plant’s DNA to create a home and food for its larvae
  • Native people
    • Decoction of leaves used for poison oak rash
    • Branchlets used to brush away small spines when harvesting prickly pear cactus fruit
Bud Gall © KKorbholz

Name Derivation

  • Baccharis (BAK-ar-is) – possibly refers to Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god of wine and fertility
  • pilularis (pil-yoo-LARE-is) – from the Latin for “a little ball,” referring either to the midge galls often found on the end of stems and buds (see Notes below) or to the shape of the flower clusters
  • consanguinea (kon-san-GWIN-ee-a) – from the Latin consanguinea, “related by blood” or “kindred,” perhaps referring to its relationship to the low-growing coastal coyote brush, B. piluaris ssp. pilularis
  • Coyote brush – probably for the appearance of the female flowers in mature seed, which look as if a passing coyote left hair on the bush


  • Pioneer plant, often first to be established in a disturbed area
  • Dispersion of other plants occurs when perching birds excrete undigested seeds
    • Excreted seeds are in a protected location, unavailable to browsers
    • A variety of young plants (e.g. elderberry, coffeeberry, blue witch) will grow sheltered by large and decaying coyote brush plants
  • Note the barren areas bordering shrubs in the chaparral and coastal scrub communities
    • Small mammals create these “scurry zones” as they leave the cover of shrubs to feed on grass and seeds, yet stay close enough to scurry back to avoid predators, like hawks and coyotes
  • Resistant to fire, sprouting from the base if fire is not too intense
  • Edgewood’s coyote brush is classified as a subspecies
    • Subspecies indicates a geographically-separated population with distinct morphological characteristics; when not isolated, interbreeding is possible
    • Variety indicates a population with small morphological variations, e.g. color, seen throughout the geographic range of the species; interbreeding is possible
    • In practice, botanists have not consistently applied these ranks

ID Tips

  • Check out this short video (Jepson 2018)

At Edgewood

  • Found commonly in coastal scrub, disturbed areas, and woodland edges
    • See iNaturalist for observations of Baccharis pilularis
  • Flowers August – November

See General References

Specific References

Hamilton, J. 2015, Feb. 24. A landscape shaped by fear on Mount Diablo. Bay Nature.

Jepson Herbarium. 2018, Jan 20. Baccharis pilularis (coyote brush) [Video]. The Jepson Videos: Visual Guide to the Plants of California. The Regents of the University of California. YouTube.

Russo, R. 2006. Field Guide to Plant Galls of California and other Western States. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.

Smither-Kopperl, M. 2016. Coyotebrush Baccharis pilularis DC. Plant Guide. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Plant Data Center, Plant Materials Center, Lockeford, California.

Steinberg, P. 2002. Baccharis pilularis. Fire Effects Information System. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.