Coyote Bush: Blessing or Curse?

Coyote Brush in Bloom

This is an established clump of coyote brush in bloom. Just in front of it is a new plant, probably produced from one of the seeds from that clump. What's amazing is that there's only one.
This is an established clump of coyote brush in bloom. Just in front of it is a new plant, probably produced from one of the seeds from that clump. What's amazing is that there's only one. | Source

Coyote Brush in My Area

The green shrubs on the right and in foreground are erect coyote bushes growing on the bank of the Salinas River in Paso Robles at Lawrence Moore Park.
The green shrubs on the right and in foreground are erect coyote bushes growing on the bank of the Salinas River in Paso Robles at Lawrence Moore Park. | Source
Most of the hedge at the back of this picture is composed of coyote brush. Right behind it,and mostly invisible in this photo is the poison oak. In the foreground we have blooming wild mustard.
Most of the hedge at the back of this picture is composed of coyote brush. Right behind it,and mostly invisible in this photo is the poison oak. In the foreground we have blooming wild mustard. | Source
This compact shrub of coyote brush looks innocent now, but if it's not restrained, it may look like the pictures above it in a few years.
This compact shrub of coyote brush looks innocent now, but if it's not restrained, it may look like the pictures above it in a few years. | Source

Why Coyote Brush?

Believe it or not, coyote brush is a member of the sunflower family. Its official scientific name is Baccharis Pilularis. It can be found living anywhere between San Diego and Oregon. A native of California, it can be found throughout the California coastal ranges. It is one of the most common shrubs in California, and, I fear, one of the most common on my own property, where the above picture was taken. It loves living on hillsides and in chaparral areas. It's one of those plants you hardly notice when you pass it on the roads, but you start to notice when it's in your yard.

Many people have asked why it's called coyote brush. It's been suggested it's tricky like a coyote. It is adaptable like the coyote. It takes different growing forms in different habitats. It can be in low mounds by the ocean and act as a sort of ground cover. On my property some plants could easily be confused with small trees or large shrubs that grow erect. It has small-egg-shaped leaves with saw-tooth edges, and these leaves have a waxy coating that reduces the evaporation of moisture and enables them to better survive drought. This coating also helps make them resistant to fire.

On hot summer days, the leaves become sticky with resinous oils. These oils are said to have a fragrance, but what kind is not stated. Its taste is supposed to discourage the leaves from being eaten. It is deer resistant for this reason. Insects of all sorts, however, love it. It's said to attract butterflies, bees, wasps, and miscellaneous bugs who like its nectar. Because it blooms later than most nectar sources, it's a major source of nutrients for insects who need to over-winter. I have personally seen the bees covering it.

Blooming Coyote Brush

Close-up of blooming coyote brush getting ready to disburse its seeds, which will be carried by the wind to make new plants.
Close-up of blooming coyote brush getting ready to disburse its seeds, which will be carried by the wind to make new plants. | Source

Roots of Larger Coyote Bush Seedlings

I hung this plant on a fence after I pulled it so I could get a good picture. Each square of the fence is six inches long. Please remember to click to enlarge these pictures.
I hung this plant on a fence after I pulled it so I could get a good picture. Each square of the fence is six inches long. Please remember to click to enlarge these pictures. | Source
I took this picture last year. Each stone is a foot square.
I took this picture last year. Each stone is a foot square. | Source

Reproduction

Coyote brush is dioecious. That means it produces male and female flowers on different plants. They bloom between August and October. Male flowers are shorter and and have yellow pollen that smells like shaving soap. I didn't notice this smell when I was around the plants. Female plants are more white and have the tufts of hair from which the seeds hang, ready to fly with the wind. The seeds themselves are like small black nuts. From my observations, this plant reproduces very successfully from seed. It will thrive in any sunny place, and is often the first plant to colonize land where other plants have been burned or removed.

It can also reproduce through its roots, which are amazing. You will discover this if you try to pull them. A coyote bush has a long taproot, which I will illustrate below. I pulled hundreds of the small plants and seedlings last week after the rain had made the soil just right for releasing roots. I photographed some of the roots so you could see how large they are in proportion to the portion of the plant above ground level. In the second picture to the right you can see the secondary branches of the roots beginning to grow. I'm guessing that underground the larger plants resemble many trees, with as many branches below the ground as above it. This extensive root system will absorb any bit of moisture that hits the ground. New plants can regenerate from these roots.

I can testify that the plants spread readily and seem to grow quickly. I will include in the photos below one of a trap I had in the yard to catch a feral cat (or try to). I forgot about it and the rains came. A coyote bush germinated under it and I had a trapped trap.

Coyote Small Plant Roots

These show you the roots on some smaller plants. Any plant higher than about four inches has a pretty long tap root in proportion to its height. The plant at front left is not coyote bush. I think its a thistle.
These show you the roots on some smaller plants. Any plant higher than about four inches has a pretty long tap root in proportion to its height. The plant at front left is not coyote bush. I think its a thistle. | Source
This is the trapped trap, unlucky enough to be neglected and forgotten while the coyote bush was germinating under it. Another coyote bush trick.
This is the trapped trap, unlucky enough to be neglected and forgotten while the coyote bush was germinating under it. Another coyote bush trick. | Source

Coyote Brush Seedlings

These tiny seedlings no doubt came from seeds blown over or through the fence out of sight a few feet to the right. Behind that fence is a forest of coyote brush. These crowded around and between these flower pots. The rosette is a bull thistle.
These tiny seedlings no doubt came from seeds blown over or through the fence out of sight a few feet to the right. Behind that fence is a forest of coyote brush. These crowded around and between these flower pots. The rosette is a bull thistle. | Source
These are a bit bigger.
These are a bit bigger. | Source
These coyote bush seedlings demonstrate how densely these will seed. If I had not pulled them, I imagine only the fittest would survive.
These coyote bush seedlings demonstrate how densely these will seed. If I had not pulled them, I imagine only the fittest would survive. | Source
This size seedling is a good size for pulling. It's large enough to get a good grip and not so large that its roots will have branched out.
This size seedling is a good size for pulling. It's large enough to get a good grip and not so large that its roots will have branched out. | Source

Invasive Coyote Bush

Coyote brush is trying to crowd out this young tree. The tree will win if it gets big enough to shade the coyote bush and deprive it of the sun it needs.
Coyote brush is trying to crowd out this young tree. The tree will win if it gets big enough to shade the coyote bush and deprive it of the sun it needs. | Source
These coyote bushes in bloom show how this clump has spread over the years it has not been controlled. The older ones that have green tops aren't as neat anymore. The tree right behind the clump is full of poison oak.
These coyote bushes in bloom show how this clump has spread over the years it has not been controlled. The older ones that have green tops aren't as neat anymore. The tree right behind the clump is full of poison oak. | Source
At the top you see blooming coyote bush which will soon be spreading seeds over the fence. Below are younger shoots from the branches pruned last year. Behind the fence, low on the right, poison hemlock lurks, ready to grow up and do its own invading
At the top you see blooming coyote bush which will soon be spreading seeds over the fence. Below are younger shoots from the branches pruned last year. Behind the fence, low on the right, poison hemlock lurks, ready to grow up and do its own invading | Source
This coyote brush is determined to seed my garden. When I get a chance, I try to put newspaper or cardboard on the ground about a yard out from the fence to stop the invading coyote bush and poison hemlock.
This coyote brush is determined to seed my garden. When I get a chance, I try to put newspaper or cardboard on the ground about a yard out from the fence to stop the invading coyote bush and poison hemlock. | Source
This picture shows how unkempt coyote bush can look when it takes over.
This picture shows how unkempt coyote bush can look when it takes over. | Source

So is Coyote Brush a Blessing or Curse?

I suppose it depends upon who you are. If you are a rabbit or insect, you will find it a blessing. If you are a gardener, you may find it a curse. If you want to grow a fire resistant hedge quickly, you might be quite happy with it. It if takes up residence in your front flower bed and grows into a tree, you might have to pay someone as I did to come remove it. (I did not own the house when it established itself.) So I guess you'll have to make up your own mind whether this plant is something you want to buy at the nursery for landscaping, or remove from your landscaping as a weed.

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Please leave your comments and feedback here. 9 comments

akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon

Well, now you have one comment~ Don't fret - I have a lot of hubs that I don't think have a comment on them.

Gotta love the trapped plant inside the cat trap! This plant seems a lot like my cursed peppermint, although THAT I planted willingly and of my own volition. I have been trying to eradicate it from 3 separate plant beds ever since! I finally pulled it and stuck it in its own pot and am wondering even with that if it will break rank and seed itself into my gardens once again.

It is pretty though~~~It kinda reminds me of junipers in this part of Oregon - they are simply EVERYWHERE - and the bad thing is a lot of my friends are horribly allergic to the pollen.

I always ask why some plants are so prolific and others so hard to keep going but it is not mine to question why, just to garden~


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Thanks for letting me know the comment module really does work, Audrey. The hired help was able to free the trap from the ground, but we still aren't sure how to get the trap door open and get the rest of the plant out.

I have a bunch of mint that has taken over almost an entire side bed and part of the front yard at what was my mom's house. I brought some home in a pot a couple of years before she died, and after all these years it seems to have sent a few roots out into the rest of the herb garden. At least, though, it is an herb garden.

The thing about coyote bush is that it's bigger and taller than mint and it would take over the entire property if one didn't stop it. Have you noticed how nature abhors a vacuum or bare ground?


4 years ago

hi i like the coyote bush


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

Another wonderful hub,thank you so much for sharing.

Here's to so many more to share on here.

Take care and I wish you a wonderful day.

Eddy.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Eddy,

I agree there is always more to share. After last night's frost, the coyote in bloom are the prettiest of the flora in this area, since I noticed this morning my favorite vineyard across the fence is now brown. Yesterday it still displayed its lovely autumn dress. Now its changed to winter brown. Coyote is still green with white tops.

Thanks for coming by to comment.


Jack Duggan 3 years ago

I was looking for information on coyote bush and found your piece. It was excellent, clear, concise, lots of good information and personal. I got what I wanted to find and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 3 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

I'm glad this was useful to you. I've been out pulling baby coyote bushes today. Would have replied sooner, but this mistakenly got filed as spam and I hadn't checked that file lately. Thank you for your comment.


jerryslong 3 years ago

Nice article, I always wondered about the Coyote Brush name origin. Even the Rangers didn't know.

Long before I knew what Coyote Brush was, I noticed its delightful and aromatic herbal fragrance when driving or hiking near the Sonoma coast where I live, and where it grows in profusion. After many years I made a point of finding out what plant gave off that nice summertime smell? The fragrance was unmistakable, especially when the scented air molecules were coming at you head-on with the car window down, rounding a coast highway curve. Wow! Downright intoxicating. Sort of a fresh blast of sweet dill and sea air. Over the years I observed that Coyote Brush does not become aromatically fragrant unless the ambient temperature reaches about 74 degrees F. I actually went to my local nursery a few years back to buy one of these plants before I knew what they were. They of course sold me the wrong variety, sort of a similar looking ground cover version. I later found a real Coyote Brush seedling and transplanted it next to my driveway gate so I could enjoy its aromatic properties in the warmer months. It wafts right in my house if I leave the nearby window open.

It seems a hearty plant and almost says "Thank you" when you water it. You could run over it with a bus and it would come back. I keep it shaped and trimmed as it is a fast growing plant. I also like the fact that it is an evergreen and fairly clean plant. They are quite enjoyable when in bloom. Some people hate them, others tolerate them, while those like me, just try to appreciate this fellow native Californian.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 3 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

I can't believe anyone actually buying this. I would have given you dozens of free transplants and seeds. Of course, you must have more than one plant by now. It is very hearty, and is very difficult to get rid of once established. I pulled out a few more seedlings from my garden area yesterday. Funny, though, I've never noticed the scent you speak of, and I'm out in it all the time. I'll have to do more sniffing.

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    Barbara Radisavljevic (WannaB Writer)594 Followers
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    Barb's hobbies are photography and studying nature. She gardens and takes photo walks to explore nature and capture it on camera.



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