What is Rubber Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa)
Rubber Rabbitbrush Overview
The Rubber Rabbitbrush is a perennial shrub that grows from the Great Plains all the way to the west coast. These shrubs, while not spectacular or really all that special in many ways, thrives in arid climates, habitats with alkaline soils, and unkept or abandoned ranges and properties. Because of their durability and ability to survive on little water, this shrub is used in water-friendly gardens that don’t need irrigation as they add a nice pop of yellow with very low maintenance.
Native American tribes in the west, most notably the Zuni and Navajo, would harvest this plant to make yellow dyes from the flowers. Rubber Rabbitbrush has been studied and used as an alternate form of rubber since 1904 and has been considered for use as a hypoallergenic rubber for people with a latex allergy.
The nauseosa portion of its scientific name comes from the scent the plant gives off when it’s bruised or damaged which has been described as pungent or foul. A weird fun fact about the Rubber Rabbitbrush found in Los Alamos, New Mexico is that some populations of the shrub are radioactive. This is largely due to the root system growing into a nuclear waste treatment area and if you don’t have a Geiger counter, you wouldn’t even know it.
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- Kingdom: Plantae
- Clade: Tracheophytes
- Clade: Angiosperms
- Clade: Eudicots
- Clade: Asterids
- Order: Asterales
- Family: Asteraceae
- Genus: Ericameria
- Species: E. nauseosa
Size and Body Description
Rubber Rabbitbrush is a semi-dense shrub with green or greenish-white stems covered in tiny hairs that help it retain water in harsh environments. The shrubs are usually round in shape and if left unattended, can grow to be as tall or taller as a person. From August to October, the shrub will bloom with yellow flowers which help attribute to their pronounced smell.
Length and Height
Being a desert or open field shrub, the Rubber Rabbitbrush can reach truly astounding sizes when left alone long enough. These shrubs can grow outwards of over 10 feet in length as well as over 7 feet in height. According to Mojave Desert Wildflowers, written by Pam MacKay, Rubber Rabbitbrush can reach up to 28 feet in length.
Rubber Rabbitbrush reproduces by having the wind carry its seeds
Rubber Rabbitbrush produces yellow flowers that are tube-shaped and are found in dense patches on top of the shrub
Rubber Rabbitbrush is found in every state west of Arkansas as well as half of Canada. Instead of listing every state and Canadian Provenance, we’ll display a nice clean image from the USDA.
As of writing this, there are no federal protections for the Rubber Rabbitbrush.