The Creosote Bush - A Hardy Desert Plant
What is a Creosote Bush?
The Creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) is at first glance not particularly beautiful, but it is one of my favourite desert plants due to it's hardiness and the properties it possesses.
Creosote grows in the deserts of American South-west and releases a wonderful fresh fragrance after rain, one of the best smells in the world!
This page is a guide to the Creosote bush, along with other resources for you to discover more about the plants in the hot dry deserts of the South-west!
A Creosote Bush in Bloom
The Creosote bush can be found in abundance in the Chihuahua, Mojave and Sonoran deserts of the Southwest, where it is a dominant plant and will grow where others cannot. It cannot grow above 4,500 feet, the creosote bush is a low desert plant.
The Creosote is an evergreen shrub, about 2 to 4 feet tall in the desert. However, planted in a garden with regular watering it can grow up to 10-12 feet tall.
The distinguishing features of the Creosote bush are small dark green to yellow green waxy leaves. The branches are a light brown, multiple and stem from the ground, they have a long thin jointed appearance. They produce 5 petal yellow flowers from February to August, followed by fuzzy white round balls of seed. The wax coating on the leaves prevents precious water from leaving the plant and also from wildlife eating it. The pungent fragrance, likened to the smell of camphor, is also a deterrent to any animals that may want to take a nibble!
The Creosote bush is drought tolerant, it can live up to two years without any water! Without water for prolonged periods, the branches and leaves will die back but new growth will appear once the rains come. It competes for water with other plants, often you will not find any other plants growing near creosote.
The roots of the Creosote bush regenerate themselves, sprouting new shoots away from the root system. Often you will see what appears to be a circle of individual bushes, but these are actually one bush from the same root crown. These rings of bushes are called clones, and there is a bush in the Mojave desert called "King Clone", which is thought to be over 11,000 years old!
Creosote bushes provide much needed shade for other plants and animals in the desert. Reptiles such as the endangered desert tortoise and mammals like the Kangaroo rat make their burrows and shelters under the creosote bush to hide from predetors and excessive heat.
You can make a tea out of the leaves of the creosote bush by steeping a teaspoon leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes. If anyone has tried this, I want to know about it! The Cahuilla Native Americans use the leaves as decongestant and cure for the common cold, by inhaling the steam of the water poured over the leaves.Other native tribes used the leaves to make a poultice to relieve skin conditions, treat wounds, digestive complaints and sexual diseases.
However, make sure you know for certain that you know the identity of the plant before you use it! Please be careful and do not ingest large quantities.
Creosote Bush Seeds
Creosote Bushes Have a Nickname....
The Spanish for the Creosote bush is hediondilla......meaning little stinker!
Want to Explore More About Creosote Bushes and Desert Wildlife? - Check out these great links about the South-West
- Desert Biomes by DesertUSA
DesertUSA is a comprehensive resource covering the North American deserts, their history, culture and biodiversity.
- U.S. National Park Service - Experience Your America
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior
- How to Garden Desert Plants in the Southwest | eHow.com
How to Garden Desert Plants in the Southwest. Gardening in desert areas of the Southwest differs from gardening in other regions of the country. You will not be able to grow many plants that will thrive in other locations. If you...
- Visiting the Deserts of the American Southwest - Southwest Desert Parks
A visit to the American Southwest is not complete without a trip into one of the beautiful deserts. Find out what you need to know to plan a trip into one of the Southwestern desert environments.