Late Summer Rabbitbrush

Aug 27, 2018
As summer wildflowers fade away, an abundance of yellow begins to appear in the Central Oregon desert. It's time for rabbitbrush to shine.

by Jana Hemphill

 

As summer wildflowers fade away, an abundance of yellow begins to appear in the Central Oregon desert. It’s time for rabbitbrush to shine.

 

A deer hanging out in rabbitbrush. Photo: Joan Amero.
A deer hanging out in rabbitbrush. Photo: Joan Amero.
What is rabbitbrush? Rabbitbrush is a shrub that can grow up to 5-7 feet tall. Rabbitbrush has flower heads that consist of small, yellow, tubular flowers arranged in dense clusters. There are two main species in Central Oregon--Gray rabbitbrush and Green rabbitbrush. Both provide cover for small animals and birds. In addition, mule deer and pronghorn browse on its leaves, flowers, and young twigs.

 

Rabbitbrush can thrive in poor conditions, enjoying dry soils and little precipitation. Because it grows in disturbed soils like many invasive plants, its presence might actually help reduce the severity of a weed invasion, using its deep roots and large amounts of leaf litter to outcompete invasive weeds, while also helping to stabilize the soil around it.

 

Interesting facts about rabbitbrush:

  • It is an important pollen source for insects, including butterflies, late in the summer after other pollen sources have faded
  • Native Americans across the American West have used it to make a yellow dye, as medicinal tea, and for chewing gum
  • During World War II, it was studied as an alternative rubber source
  • Rabbitbrush can live up to 20 years

 

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