What Is A Coyote Bush: Learn About Baccharis Plant Care And Uses

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Coyote bush is most likely found in coastal scrub and lowland zones. The scientific name for it is Baccharis pilularis, but the bush is also called chaparral broom. The bush is an important part of chaparral environments, providing food, shelter, and erosion control in scrubby land with few large trees. The amazingly adaptable plant is found in canyons, hillsides, and bluffs. Try growing bush baccharis as part of your natural landscape in parts of Oregon, California, and coastal areas below 2,500 feet (762 m.).

What is a Coyote Bush?

An interesting note about coyote bushes is their close relation to sunflowers. The plant is scraggly and wiry, with stiff branches and small, grayish serrated leaves along the woody stems. An herbaceous perennial, coyote bush has evolved several adaptive strategies to thrive in poor soils with loose vertical soil. It has a wide root system and waxy leaves, which protect it from moisture loss.

Chaparral zones frequently experience wildfires to which the plant is equally well adapted. Leaves are coated with a resinous substance that retards fire. In addition, the thick dense roots and stout crown help the plant regenerate after the upper growth has been consumed in a fire.

The bush tends to grow in areas with sporadic rainfall and extended dry seasons. It may be a low-growing shrub or an erect tall bush, depending upon its growing conditions. Those that hug hillsides tend to grow low to the ground for protection.

Where a site provides shelter, coyote bush looms taller and stretches for sunlight. These bushes can withstand drought, infertile soils, fire, and salt spray. Growing bush baccharis provides erosion control with its wide branching roots and requires little maintenance once established.

Coyote Bush Uses

Baccharis is a native plant and has been used for several purposes by indigenous people. If ingested, the bush does have the ability to cause pregnancy termination.

Native people used it as a material for hunting tools, such as arrow shafts. The fluffy female seed heads were part of stuffing for toys and other items.

Coyote bush uses also extended to some medicinal therapies, such as using heated leaves to reduce pain and swelling.

Baccharis Plant Care

If you are seeking a natural addition to your landscape or back forty that will require little effort on your part, coyote bushes are right up your alley. Provided soils are moderately to heavily coarse, the plant performs well in a variety of situations.

Coyote bush does need a sunny location and frequent watering until it is established. Once the plant is situated, however, you don’t need to water it except in the most severe droughts.

Trim the bush as needed to keep it from getting too rangy. This is a slow-growing plant with the main gains achieved in spring when temperatures are warm and rains give it a burst of growing moisture.

Baccharis plant care is minimal and the bush may reward you in spring with tiny flowers that become cottony, fluffy seeds in fall.

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Coyote Brush

Chaparral Coyote Brush
Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants see family for general characteristics
  • Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)
  • Perennial, evergreen shrub
  • Leaves
    • Alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem) and ovate
    • Edged with coarse teeth
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) of clustered, cream-colored flowerheads
    • Male and female flowers on separate plants (dioecious)
    • Each flowerhead (see Sunflower family) is tightly packed with many, tiny unisexual flowers
      • Discoid male (staminate) flowerheads have 5-lobed disk flowers with showy yellow anthers
      • Disciform female (pistillate) flowerheads have 5-lobed disk flowers in the center and disk-like flowers with minute or missing rays rimming the edge
    • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is an achene (a single-seeded, dry fruit that does not split open)
    • Mature seed has white pappus (hair-like tufts) that give the female plant a “fluffy” look in fall-winter
  • Height to


    • Native to California
      • Grows in coastal sage shrub, chaparral, oak woodlands, and mixed evergreen forests
      • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
    • Grows slightly beyond California borders in Oregon and Baja California, Mexico
    • Grows at elevations to 2,000 ft.
    Male Flowers (L), Female Flowers (M), Seeds (R)
    © DSchiel (L, R), MWilson (M)

    Uses (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

    • Provides cover for rabbits and other small mammals who graze on vegetation beneath the bushes
    • Native people had several uses for coyote brush
      • A decoction prepared from the leaves was used as a remedy for poison oak rash
      • Branchlets were used to brush away the small spines when harvesting prickly pear cactus fruit
      • Brittle stems were used as arrows

    Name Derivation

    • Baccharis (BAK-ar-is) – possibly refers to Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god of wine and fertility
    • pilularis (pil-yoo-LARE-is) – from the Latin for “a little ball,” referring either to the insect galls (abnormal growth caused by insects, fungi, virus, bacteria, etc.) often found on the end of stems and buds or to the shape of the flower clusters
    • consanguinea (kon-san-GWIN-ee-a) – from the Latin consanguinea, “related by blood” or “kindred”
    • Coyote brush – probably for the appearance of the female flowers in mature seed, which look as if a passing coyote left hair on the bush
    Bud Gall © KKorbholz

    • Blooming period occurs during fall and winter, providing an abundance of pollen and nectar during a time of relative scarcity
    • One study found 291 species of insects, mites, and parasites were associated with this shrub (Russo 2006)
    • Look for the host-specific bud gall created by the coyote-brush bud-gall midge (Rhopalomyia californica), resembling a little cauliflower or cabbage the midge co-opts the plant’s DNA to create a home and food for its larvae
    • Pioneer plant, often first to be established in a disturbed area
      • Dispersion of other plants occurs when perching birds excrete undigested seeds
      • Excreted seeds are in a protected location, unavailable to browsers
      • Note the variety of young plants (e.g. elderberry, coffeeberry, blue witch) growing through a decaying coyote brush
    • Note the barren areas bordering shrubs in the chaparral and coastal scrub communities small mammals create these “scurry zones” as they leave the cover of shrubs to feed on grass and seeds, yet stay close enough to scurry back to avoid predators, like hawks and coyotes
    • Resistant to fire, sprouting from the base if fire is not too intense
    • Edgewood’s coyote brush is classified as a subspecies
      • Subspecies rank is used to recognize geographic distinctiveness, whereas variety rank is appropriate for variants seen throughout the geographic range of the species in practice, these two ranks are not distinct

    • Check out this short Jepson video

    At Edgewood

    • Found in chaparral, woodlands, and disturbed areas
      • See iNaturalist for observations of this plant
        • Note observations are for Baccharis pilularis
    • Flowers August – November

    Specific References

    Jepson Herbarium Videos. Visual Guide to the Plants of California.

    Russo, R. 2006. Field Guide to Plant Galls of California and other Western States. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.

    Great Design Plant: Coyote Bush

    Here coyote bush is planted with perennial grasses. Its dense structure and reliable evergreen foliage make an informal yet architectural screen.

    Botanical name: Baccharis pilularis
    Common names: Coyote bush, coyotebrush, chaparral broom
    Origin: Native to the Oregon coast, California and New Mexico
    USDA zones: 8 to 10 (find your zone)
    Water requirement: Little to none
    Light requirement: Full sun to partial shade
    Mature size: 2 to 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide
    Benefits and tolerances: Tolerant of varying soil types and direct coastal conditions leaves are fire retardant deer resistant provides shelter for wildlife nectar attracts bees, butterflies and other native insects
    Seasonal interest: Evergreen flowers fall through winter
    When to plant: Plant woody cuttings in fall.

    Distinguishing traits. Coyote bush is a low-lying shrub with dense foliage and wiry branches. Year-round it’s covered with medium green, jagged-edged leaves. Their waxy appearance is due to a coating that prevents moisture loss from evaporation. The leaves can get sticky during hot summer days, but they're also fire retardant.

    Coyote bush’s form reflects its survival needs, depending on the climate . It's low and dense along the coast in harsh windy conditions and more of an upright shrub in protected inland canyons .

    The shrub produces inconspicuous flowers (white fluffy female flowers and yellow male flowers) from autumn through winter. Following flowering, the female plants go to seed, sending pappi into the wind. Most nurseries sell the male plants, as those won’t produce seeds or make the same mess.

    How to use it. Plant coyote bush for its wildlife value. Its nectar feeds native and nonnative bees and insects, and its branching provides a shelter and habitat for wildlife. The standard form and 'Pigeon Point' cultivar are mixed in the hillside restoration project shown here.

    Planting notes. Coyote bush is considered a common plant by many, with cultural tolerance and resilience. It prefers well-drained soil, like those at the coast, but overall it is soil tolerant. It can handle direct salt spray, fog and wind — coastal conditions — and requires no supplemental watering. It is, however, more fire retardant and lush if watered monthly in inland climates.

    Coyote bush does best given full sun and enough room for its extensive root system to spread. It is a plant that is quick to regenerate after fires, floods or clearings pruning periodically thins the plant out and maintains its shape in a process that mimics nature's.

    Coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis) is a broadleaf evergreen shrub growing 2 feet high and 6 feet wide. The wedge-shaped, oblong green leaves create a dense bush of foliage. Coyote bush comes in male and female shrubs. The female bush produces white flowers and the male bush produces yellow flowers. These flowers form tight clusters. This drought-resistant bush is commonly used for erosion control and is native to the Oregon coast.

    • Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) produces sword-shaped leaves 4 to 16 inches long.
    • Coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis) is a broadleaf evergreen shrub growing 2 feet high and 6 feet wide.

    Baccharis Species, Bush Baccharis, Coyote Brush, Dwarf Chaparral Broom

    Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
    Genus: Baccharis (BAK-uh-riss) (Info)
    Species: pilularis (pil-LOO-lar-iss) (Info)
    Synonym:Baccharis pilularis subsp. consanguinea
    Synonym:Baccharis pilularis var. consanguinea


    Water Requirements:

    Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

    Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

    Sun Exposure:


    This plant is resistant to deer

    Foliage Color:




    USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

    USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

    USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

    USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

    USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

    USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

    USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

    USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

    USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

    Where to Grow:


    Bloom Color:

    Bloom Characteristics:

    Bloom Size:

    Bloom Time:

    Other details:

    Soil pH requirements:

    Patent Information:

    Propagation Methods:

    Seed Collecting:


    This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

    Gardeners' Notes:

    On Mar 21, 2008, hellnzn11 from Rosamond, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

    I love this plant, I have two varieties of the same plant. One is lower growing and greener and does not spread super rapidly but still fast(not invasive). The other I got from seed I took, and it grew fast and is now flowering, it is more lime colored and spreads faster and gets taller.

    It was under water in a flood the first year and spread. It now seldom cares if I water it or not and I have caleche soil, not ammended there and somewhat alkaline too.

    Partners well with Atriplex C. took the same conditions and water needs then and now. (fast as well)

    On Aug 31, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

    This is the upright form of native Baccharis, male and female plants (small white flowers). Drought tolerant, but grows well with irrigation. 3-8' tall, deer proof, blows in on the wind.

    Only male plants will likely be found in the retail market. If Baccharis pilularis is used for ecological restoration of wildlands, female plants should also be incorporated into the planting scheme.

    On Aug 29, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

    Also known as the dwarf chaparral broom, although I have no idea why. :) Established plants are drought tolerant. Can be pruned in late winter to "clean the plant up".

    Baccharis halimifolia

    Previously known as:

    There are several similar Baccharis species that form large shrubs or small trees. Groundsel tree, in the Asteraceae (daisy) family, is a native shrub to the coastal areas of the eastern US. It is commonly found in salt marshes, sandy locations, wet disturbed sites, near a road, fields, and is occasionally sold in the nursery trade for its unique foliage and flowering season.

    This plant is commonly seen as a multi-trunked plant with an irregular, open, airy habit that can become leggy. As a seedling it resembles lambsquarters. In the fall and winter, plants may be covered with white to cream-colored flower heads. Seeds are shed in late fall or winter, but the seeds of the female plant (this plant is dioecious) are poisonous. Wind dispersed seeds blow into landscapes during the winter months and the seeds easily grow (because they do not mind the shade when seeds first start growing), making this a weedy plant.

    Plant in the full sun to partial shade in a range of soil types, even poor fertility, wet sites, and dry soil. Heat, drought, waterlogged soils, and salt spray are all tolerated. It may even be seen growing in a place after a fire: therefore, it is very weedy because it can grow in many conditions. Though it is not commonly used as a landscape plant, if you are to plant it, it is best used as filler or on the edge of a natural area.

    Baccharis is dioecious: male pollinator plant needed for female fruit set. Female fruits are very showy. It can be an aggressive grower in agricultural/silvicultural situations it has spread inland along salted roads.

    Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The wood is brittle. It can be weedy and if undesired, the seedlings are not well controlled by preemergence herbicides, and selective postemergence controls are not available. Hand pulling seedlings when small is the best option for removal. Also, the seeds of the female plant (this plant is dioecious) as well as the leaves in general are poisonous.

    (Greensboro, NC)-Mid Fall Douglas Goldman, USDA CC BY-NC 4.0 (Greensboro, NC)-Mid Fall Douglas Goldman, USDA CC BY-NC 4.0 feathery seeds Bob Peterson CC-BY-SA 2.0 fall habit Cotinis CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 habit Forest & Kim Starr CC BY 2.0 leaves Homer Edward Price CC BY 2.0 Habit J. Neal Leaf Alexander Krings Inflorescence J. Neal Flower head Alexander Krings Flowerhead in the fall in Johnston County Dcrjsr CC BY 3.0 Bush form in Wake Forest Halpaugh CC0 close up Jean-Jacques MILAN CC BY-SA 3.0 Close up in early fall Katja Schulz CC BY 2.0 Flowers with monarchs Florida Fish and Wildlife CC BY-ND 2.0 Male plant with a metallic bee CC BY 2.0 Leaves James H. Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Bugwood.org CC BY 3.0 Leaves and stem James H. Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Bugwood.org CC BY 3.0 Close up Katja Schulz CC BY 2.0 Leaves Jim Robbins CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Form Jim Robbins CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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