Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
General: Waterleaf family (Hydrophyllaceae). Yerba Santa is a perennial evergreen shrub (5 to 22 dm) native to California and Oregon. The stems are black with shredding outer bark. The lance shaped leaves (4 to 15cm long) are thick and leathery with a glutinous upper surface. The leaves are dark green above with lighter green beneath and can have either smooth or saw-toothed edges. Older leaves often turn black due to a condition called sooty fungus. The white to purple trumpet-shaped flowers (8 to 17mm) grow in branched panicles at the stem ends. The flowers bloom from May to June or July. The small capsulate fruits (2-3mm) ripen in September and contain from 2 to 20 small black seeds.
Distribution: Yerba Santa occurs from the Coast Ranges in California from Monterey County to the Klamath range in Siskiyou County as well as in the Sierra Nevada Range from Kern County in California to the Oregon counties of Klamath and Jackson in the north (Howard 1992). For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Habitat: Yerba Santa grows below 1600-m elevation on dry rocky hillsides and ridges. It can be found in patches on chaparral slopes, forests, canyons, and along riverbanks. It is abundant in some annual grasslands and oak woodlands. Yerba Santa is often found in disturbed areas and early to mid successional communities.