Photo Credit
Photo courtesy of Paul Alaback.

Coyote brush

Scientific name
Baccharis pilularis
Also Known As
Chaparral broom, Coyote bush
Plant Family
A highly branched, evergreen shrub or small tree that can range in form from a low spreading shrub (10-15cm tall and spreading up to 4m wide) to erect (less than 3m tall and 1-3m wide) with dense feathery tufts all over the plant when it fruits. It has small, stiff, sticky leaves.
Identification Hints

There are several species of broom-like plants (Baccharis) which occur in chaparral habitats. The dark green, small (1.5 cm; 0.6 in), thick, coarsely toothed, oval-shaped to wedge-shaped leaves and small dense white heads of flowers less than 5 mm (0.2 in) of coyote bush contrast with the the larger (2- 5 cm; 0.6 - 2.0 in) oblong-shaped leaves and larger flower heads (6 - 8 mm; 0.2 - 0.3 in) of the closely related Baccharis emoryi. The other species have either straight stiff rod-like stems and small narrow (linear) leaves (B. sarothroides) or long narrow willow-like leaves (B. salicifolia, B. glutinosa).

Did You Know?

Coyote Brush needs sun to thrive, so you won't find it in mature, long-established chaparral. Following fire, however, it is an abundant colonizer, both from seed and as root-sprouts, and can be found with California Sagebrush, Monkey flower and other short-lived shrubs. Look out  for insect visitors that come for its nectar, including wasps, native butterflies, and flies. The flowers are tiny, but they are nevertheless an important source of nutrition for these insects. In Santa Barbara coastal sage scrub communities, spittlebugs and tiger beetles are often found on the stems and leaves.

The foliage is often sticky, with small, alternately arranged, simple leaves (with barely a petiole (leaf stem)), which are 0.3 to 2 in (8 to 55 mm) long but often reduced to small bracts (modified leaves) on the upper portions of stems. There are three main veins that feed each leaf. The margins of the leaves (leaf edges) can be coarsely toothed
The tiny white flowers (sometimes tinged with pink) are arranged into dense, white, cottonlike flower heads (inflorescences) that are each 0.1 to 0.2 in (3 to 5 mm) wide. Male and female flowers are found on separate plants and are insect pollinated. Flowers are produced in large numbers on the branches. Male inflorescences contain 20 to 34 flowers; female inflorescences contain 20 to 43 flowers. Buds are most common in early summer and flowering usually occurs mid to late summer but can occur also in winter or early spring.
Each flower develops into a one-seeded fruit (achene) with an attached feathery structure (pappus) which assists in wind dispersal. Each small fruit is smooth, 1 to 2 mm (0.4 to 0.8) wide, with 8 to 10 tiny longitudinal ribs. The fruits form whitish feathery tufts at branch tips. Fruits ripen in late-summer and the entire plant becomes covered with conspicuous white feathery pappuses.
Found in coastal sage scrub, chaparral communities, dry foothills and coastal dunes. Widespread along the coast from Baja California (Mexico), through San Diego and Santa Barbara Counties (including the Channel Islands), and north to Oregon. May also be found in isolated populations in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains and in New Mexico.