Photo Credit
Photo courtesy of Sheri Hagwood, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.

Antelope bitterbrush

Scientific name
Purshia tridentata
Plant Family
Antelope bitterbrush is a perennial, deciduous shrub or small tree with rigid branches and wedge-shaped leaves. The leaves are also deeply 3-lobed at the tip.
Identification Hints

Antelope bitterbrush is a perennial, deciduous shrub or small tree with rigid branches and wedge-shaped leaves. The leaves are deeply 3-lobed at the tip. The flowers are five-petaled, yellow to white, to pink-red and are accompanied by tiny leafy spurs.

Did You Know?

Antelope bitterbrush is long lived: it has been reported that a 115-year-old plant existed that was only 25 cm (10 in) high and spread over 1.8 m2 (7 square ft), while at a lower elevation the same botanist found a 128-year-old plant that was 3.6 m (12 ft) high and 6 m (20 ft) across. Antelope bitterbrush is also important browse for wildlife and livestock, and it supports several species of insects.

Leaves
The leaves of Antelope bitterbrush appear before the flowers in the early spring. Leaves are wedge shaped, alternate, 0.39 to 0.79 in (10 to 20 mm) long, deeply 3-lobed at the tip, greenish on the upper surface and grayish-woolly beneath. Leaf fall tends to occur sometime around mid- November in Washington state.
Flowers
Individual flowers are found both at the ends of the branches (terminal) and sticking off the sides of branches accompanied by small leaves (leafy spurs). They have five petals that are yellow to pink-red to white, 0.24 to 0.35 in (6 to 9 mm) long. The flowers generally appear between early spring and July, depending on the location, and are insect pollinated.
Fruits
The seeds are spindle-shaped achenes, about 0.25 in (0.64 cm) long and obovate. They require a period of cool-moist stratification before they can germinate. The seeds generally develop and ripen sometime between July and September and shatter easily at maturity. These shrubs generally reach seed bearing age between 8 and 10 years of age. Rodents often cache the seeds which is very important to regeneration of these shrubs.
Bark
The bark is thin, grayish to brown. The twigs are slender, reddish brown becoming gray-brown with age.
Habitat
Dry, well-drained soils (sandy, rocky, gravelly) typical of sagebrush desert, shrub-steppe, ponderosa pine forest and juniper woodland.
States
AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NE, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY