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Purshia tridentata (Antelope bitterbrush)
Hixson, John

Purshia tridentata

Purshia tridentata (Pursh) DC.

Antelope Bitterbrush, Bitterbrush, Antelope Brush

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Synonym(s): Purshia tridentata var. tridentata

USDA Symbol: PUTR2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Bitterbrush or antelope brush is a gray, small-leaved shrub that usually grows 4-5 ft. but can reach 12 ft. The intricately branched prostate stems often root where they touch the ground. Cream-colored, tubular, short-lived flowers are solitary at the ends of short branches. The semi-evergreen leaves are deeply three-cleft and roll inward in scorching weather, exposing the grayish, densely hairy underside.

Bitterbrush is a member of the rose family (family Rosaceae) which includes about 2000 species of trees, shrubs, and herbs worldwide; approximately 77 native and 9 naturalized tree species and many species of shrubs and herbs in North America; including service-berries (Amelanchier), hawthorns (Crataegus), apples (Malus), plums and cherries (Prunus), and mountain-ashes (Sorbus).


From the Image Gallery

4 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Fruit Type: Achene
Size Notes: Up to about 12 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul
Bloom Notes: Yellow to pale yellow, sometimes nearly white.


USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , NM , NV , OR , UT , WA , WY
Canada: BC
Native Distribution: MT to B.C., s. to NM, n. AZ & CA
Native Habitat: Dry, sagebrush & pinon-juniper slopes; 3000-11,000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Dry soils.
Conditions Comments: This shrub is good for erosion control, informal plantings, and revegetation on disturbed sites. Does not sprout after fire.

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Grows best from seeds but layering is also successful. Stratified seed should be sown while wet.
Seed Collection: Seeds are ripe in mid-summer. Timing of seed collection is important to avoid seed loss. Flail branches over a container or use a vacuum collector. The papery husks must be removed before sowing. (Rodents remove the husks in nature.)
Seed Treatment: Seeds need winter stratification. Stored seed can be stratified at 39 degrees for a little as two weeks.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Replacing grass with xeric plants in Nevada
March 20, 2009
I am looking to xeriscape my front yard - remove all grass! I am thinking 3-4 larger plants: bird of paradise (mesquite??), aloe, and ..?? Also, possibly a Chilean mesquite. Do you have suggestio...
view the full question and answer

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR


Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Purshia tridentata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Purshia tridentata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Purshia tridentata


Record Modified: 2022-10-20
Research By: TWC Staff

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