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Flaigg, Norman G.
Larrea tridentata (Sessé & Moc. ex DC.) Coville
Creosote bush, Greasewood, Hediondilla, Governadora, Guamis
Synonyms: Larrea tridentata var. tridentata, Larrea divaricata
USDA Symbol: latr2
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
Creosote-bush is a 3-5 ft., evergreen shrub which can reach 10 ft. and has numerous flexible stems usually arising from the base at an angle. Its slender, irregularly branching stems bear tiny, rich-green, aromatic leaflets. The small, compound leaves, 1/5–2/5 inch long, are composed of 2 leaflets. They are opposite, united at the base, pointed at the tip, dark to yellowish-green, strong-scented, and often sticky with resin. These provide a background for small but prolific, yellow, velvety flowers, followed by fluffy, white fruit. The flowers are inconspicuous except under favorable conditions, when they are prominent, giving the bush a yellowish cast. They are 1/4–1/2 inch long, with 5 petals, 10 stamens, and 1 pistil. Stems are gray with dark nodes, giving a jointed appearance.
Creosote Bush is the most characteristic species of the hot deserts of North America. Its pungence fills the air following rains. Decoctions from its leaves are used as antiseptics and emetics. Many “bunches” of plants are actually clones. The foliage hides species of grasshoppers, praying mantids, and crickets that occur only on this plant. Leafy galls caused by a fly, the Creosote Gall Midge (Asphondylia spp.) are often numerous.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Shrub Leaf Retention: Evergreen Size Notes:
Typically 3 to 6. Flower:
Flowers 1/2 inch
White Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
AZ , CA , NM , NV , TX , UT Native Distribution:
W. TX to s.w. UT, AZ, s. CA & adjacent Mex. Native Habitat:
Flat desert areas USDA Native Status: L48(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Low Light Requirement:
Part Shade Soil Moisture:
Dry Cold Tolerant:
Loose, well-drained sand or loam. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Caliche type Conditions Comments:
Drought-tolerant creosote bush is the dominant shrub
in desert areas, covering thousands of square miles. It may not be a distinct species of L. divaricata. The shrub
can be sheared like boxwood, pick-pruned to a small, graceful shrub,
or pruned to make a small tree. Tip pruning increases density. Nothing will grow under creosote bush because of toxins it gives off. Leaves are sticky with a creosote resin. Produces a refreshing scent after rains. The main bloom period is in the spring, but blossoms will occur later depending on available moisture.
BenefitUse Ornamental: Showy, Aromatic, Long-living, Blooms ornamental, Fruits ornamental, Desert landscape
Use Wildlife: Provides cover for desert wildlife. Nectar-insects, Cover, Nesting site, Browse, Fruit-birds
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Deer Resistant: High
PropagationPropagation Material: Seeds
Description: Seeds germinate slowly. Hulling dramatically improves germination. Sow seeds in a warm, well-drained dark place. This species is difficult to root from cuttings.
Seed Collection: Collect ripe fruits in late spring through summer by stripping the plants. Air dry and fumigate the fruits before storage.
Seed Treatment: Scarification of the hard seed coat induces germination. Soak in distilled water overnight.
Commercially Avail: yes
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- Santa Barbara, CANative Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
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Record Modified: 2011-04-06
Research By: TWC Staff