Coyote Brush, Baccharis Pilularis

The Coyote Brush, (Baccharis Pilularis) or sometimes called the Chaparral Broom or just Bush, is a shrub that grows in California, Oregon, and Baja California. It is classified in the Asteraceae. This shrub is typically no taller than 10 feet. It is very smooth and usually sticky. The stems are prostrate to upright with branches that spread and ascend in various directions. The leaves are .5 to 2 inches long and are smooth to rough in texture and oblong to oval in shape, with three principal veins. The involucres (leaves beneath the flower) are hemispheric to bell shaped. The heads are in a leafy panicle. This species is dioecious, meaning male and female parts occur on separate plants. Both parts, the stamen and the pistil, have heads less than a quarter of an inch. Phyllaries are in a series of 4 to 6, oval in shape, and sticky. The convex to conic shaped receptacles are also honeycombed. The male flowers range from 20-30 and the female flowers range from 19-43. Erect and prostrate plants are typically completely intergraded.

Coastal bluffs to oak woodlands make a variety of suitable habitats for this plant. In California grasslands, it grows later than other vegetation yet increases rapidly in the absence of fire or grazing. Abundance of Coyote Brush in grasslands is vital for aiding establishment of other coastal sage species. Although Coyote Brush is ordinary in coastal sage shrub, it does not revitalize under a closed shrub canopy because proper seed growth is disturbed in the shade. Other shade tolerant species, like Coast Live Oak or California Bay, take the place of Coyote Brush when there has been no fire or grazing.

Since Coyote Brush requires sufficient drainage and reasonable amounts of summer watering, it typically is not a cultivated plant. Coyote Brush is functional for providing fence lines or hedging and also ground covering because it is quite drought resistant. Further, it is able to withstand deer traffic. In the beginning stages of growth it requires weekly watering, but then only once per month during the first summer. It reaches maturity in just one to two years. Erect plants and the ground cover form of Baccharis pilularis are considered the same species because the short and tall plants intermingle completely. However, in landscaping only the male plants are used. Predatory wasps, native small butterflies, and native flies all derive nectar from these plants.

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