Coyote Brush

Coyote Brush © TCorelli

Chaparral Coyote Brush
Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea
NATIVE

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

    • 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.

    Distribution

      • Native to California
        • Grows in coastal sage shrub, 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 (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • Provides cover for rabbits and other small mammals who graze on vegetation beneath the bushes
        • Native people had several uses for coyote brush
          • A decoction prepared from the leaves was used as a remedy for poison oak rash
          • Branchlets were used to brush away the small spines when harvesting prickly pear cactus fruit
          • Brittle stems were used as arrows

        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 insect galls (abnormal growth caused by insects, fungi, virus, bacteria, etc.) often found on the end of stems and buds or to the shape of the flower clusters
          • consanguinea (kon-san-GWIN-ee-a) – from the Latin consanguinea, “related by blood” or “kindred”
          • 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
          Bud Gall © KKorbholz

          Notes

            • Blooming period occurs during fall and winter, providing an abundance of pollen and nectar during a time of relative scarcity
            • One study found 291 species of insects, mites, and parasites were 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; the midge co-opts the plant’s DNA to create a home and food for its larvae
            • 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
              • Note the variety of young plants (e.g. elderberry, coffeeberry, blue witch) growing through a decaying coyote brush
            • 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 rank is used to recognize geographic distinctiveness, whereas variety rank is appropriate for variants seen throughout the geographic range of the species; in practice, these two ranks are not distinct

            ID Tips

            At Edgewood

              • Found in chaparral, woodlands, and disturbed areas
                • See iNaturalist for observations of this plant
                  • Note observations are for 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 Videos. Visual Guide to the Plants of California.

                    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. Plant Guide: Coyote Brush. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), National Plant Data Center.

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