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Native Plants: Coyote brush is hardy, drought tolerant perennial that flowers in winter
By Len Lindstrand III Special to the Record Searchlight
The cold temperatures, short days and sight of many leafless trees and shrubs during our winter months tend to make us think just like the old adage of hibernating bears — that nature has shut down for a winter nap.
While many critters and plants may indeed take a winter snooze, even a casual observer will notice there is much more going on in the woods this time of year than one may think. A hike or simple outing to one of our nearby trails or outdoor areas reveals an abundance of winter plant and related animal activity; many perennial and annual grasses and forbs have already begun to grow, toyon berries are still hanging and feeding American robins, and winter-flowering shrubs like our manzanitas are beginning to bloom.
Another one of our interesting local native shrubs active during winter is coyote brush. Not only is this species important in wildlands because of its many habitat values and well-timed flowering period, it also makes a great and easy to grow addition to our gardens.
Coyote brush, Baccharis pilularis, grows throughout California’s coast ranges and Sierra Nevada foothills in coastal scrub, chaparral and woodland habitats up to approximately 5,000 feet elevation. This shrub is considered a secondary pioneer species, or one of the first woody plants to grow after a disturbance event. As such it is often found in areas that have been recently cleared, burned or flooded.
Also known as chaparral broom or bush baccharis, coyote brush is a perennial shrub with different habits depending upon location. Plants found on dunes and other coastal areas influenced by onshore winds and salt spray often grow in a prostrate or mat form, while at inland locations coyote brush shrubs are upright, rounded and may reach 12 feet high.