Comprehensive Description

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General: Antelope bitterbrush is a slow growing

shrub that is moderate to very deep rooted with wide ecotypic variations. It is normally 2 to 6 feet in height and up to 8 feet in width with wedge shaped, three lobed leaves (some are persistent in winter). Leaves can vary in color from grey green to bright green. Some plants have branches near the soil that layer (branches that touch the soil develop roots) providing additional rooting for the plant.

Flowering occurs in late spring to early summer. The spindle-shaped seed shatters easily at maturity. Flowers are small, varying from white to yellow, and produced profusely along each leader. The seeds are large for the species—15,500 per pound. They are about one-fourth inch long and obovate. Seeds, stems, and leaves are nontoxic.

Individual bitterbrush plants exhibit considerable variation for growth form. Bitterbrush’s growth forms vary from a uniform, erect growth habit to more decumbent, layering forms. Users are encouraged to consider the various forms of bitterbrush in choosing a strain best suited to their needs.

Distribution: Antelope bitterbrush is an important native browse shrub in the intermountain Western United States. It occurs from New Mexico north to Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and British Columbia, west to Idaho, and Washington, south to Oregon, California, and Nevada. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Habitat: Antelope bitterbrush occurs most often as part of a mixed shrub community, but occasionally is found in nearly pure stands. It is associated with a variety of understory grasses and forbs. It can also be an understory plant in association with taller growing trees.


Public Domain

USDA NRCS California State Office and Lockeford Plant Materials Center, California Upper Colorado Environmental Plant Center, Colorado

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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