Overview

Brief Summary

Encelia farinosa has a bioregional distribution that includes California's eastern South Coast and adjacent Peninsular Ranges, as well as a desert distribution outside California to southwestern Utah, Arizona and northwest Mexico. The occurrences are restricted to elevations less than 1000 meters. Chief habitats are in coastal scrub and on stony desert hillsides.

This desert shrub, also known by the common name Brittlebush, reaches a height of 30 to 150 centimeters, manifesting a single or several trunks. The stems are much-branched above, with young stems tomentose; older stems exhibit smooth bark, This plant's sap is fragrant Leaves are clustered near stem tips, with leaf petioles 10 to 20 millimeters in length, and with ovate to lanceolate blades ranging from two to seven cm. These tomentose leaves are silver or gray in color. Inflorescence heads are radiate, and generally yellowish, although the disk flowers can be yellow or brownish-purple.
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Distribution

Occurrence in North America

     AZ  CA  HI  NV  UT  MEXICO

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More info for the term: adventitious

Brittle bush grows in the interior valleys of coastal southern
California (San Bernardino Valley, Lake Elsinore, western San Diego
County, and west Riverside County), Baja California, southern Nevada in
Clark County, southwestern Utah, southern and western Arizona, and
northwestern Mexico [1,35,46,52].  It is adventitious in Hawaii [55].
  • 46.  Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock,        Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2d ed. Berkeley, CA: University of        California Press. 1085 p.  [6563]
  • 1.  Benson, Lyman; Darrow, Robert A. 1981. The trees and shrubs of the        Southwestern deserts. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.        [18066]
  • 35.  Shreve, F.; Wiggins, I. L. 1964. Vegetation and flora of the Sonoran        Desert. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 2 vols.  [21016]
  • 52.  Munz, Philip A. 1974. A flora of southern California. Berkeley, CA:        University of California Press. 1086 p.  [4924]
  • 55.  St. John, Harold. 1973. List and summary of the flowering plants in the        Hawaiian islands. Hong Kong: Cathay Press Limited. 519 p.  [25354]

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

More info on this topic.

This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

    3  Southern Pacific Border
    7  Lower Basin and Range
   12  Colorado Plateau

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Encelia farinosa A. Gray ex Torr.:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Brittle bush is a native, drought-deciduous, perennial shrub
[7,8,21,28].  It grows to about 5 feet (1.5 m).  It has a woody base and
is rounded and much-branched in form.  Thick branches support an
umbrella of leaves with few stems beneath [7].  The leaves are 0.7 to 2
inches (2-5 cm) long and 0.6 to 1 inch (1.5-2.5 cm) broad.  They are
mostly located toward the end of branches [35].  The flowering heads are
loosely clustered on long naked branchlets [1,35].  Brittle bush is
short lived.  On permanent plots in the Sonoran Desert, the maximum
observed longevity was 32 years [54].

Brittle bush generally has shallow roots [27].  One study found that the
root system of brittle bush on a north-facing slope was composed of a
stout taproot and numerous laterals.  All laterals bore groups of
filamentous roots [8].
  • 1.  Benson, Lyman; Darrow, Robert A. 1981. The trees and shrubs of the        Southwestern deserts. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.        [18066]
  • 7.  Brown, David E.; Minnich, Richard A. 1986. Fire and changes in creosote        bush scrub of the western Sonoran Desert, California. American Midland        Naturalist. 116(2): 411-422.  [537]
  • 8.  Cannon, William Austin. 1911. The root habits of desert plants.        Washington, DC: The Carnegie Institution of Washington. 96 p.  [5003]
  • 21.  Levin, Geoffrey A. 1988. How plants survive in the desert. Environment        Southwest. Summer: 20-25.  [9239]
  • 27.  Minnich, Richard A. 1983. Fire mosaics in southern California and        northern Baja California. Science. 219: 1287-1294.  [4631]
  • 28.  Monson, R. K.; Smith, S. D.; Gehring, J. L.; [and others]
  • 35.  Shreve, F.; Wiggins, I. L. 1964. Vegetation and flora of the Sonoran        Desert. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 2 vols.  [21016]
  • 54.  Goldberg, Deborah E.; Turner, Raymond M. 1986. Vegetation change and        plant demography in permanent plots in the Sonoran Desert. Ecology.        67(3): 695-712.  [4410]

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Description

Shrubs, 30–150 cm (sap fragrant). Stems branched distally, tomentose, developing smooth barks. Leaves cauline (clustered near stem tips); petioles 10–20 mm; blades silver or gray, ovate to lanceolate, 20–70 mm, apices obtuse or acute, faces tomentose. Heads in paniculiform arrays (branching among heads mainly distal). Peduncles glabrous except near heads (± yellow). Involucres 4–10 mm. Phyllaries lanceolate. Ray florets 11–21; corolla laminae 8–12 mm. Disc corollas yellow or brown-purple, 5–6 mm. Cypselae 3–6 mm; pappi 0. 2n = 36.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Encelia farinosa var. phenicodonta S. F. Blake) I. M. Johnston
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Ecology

Habitat

Sonoran Desert Habitat

This taxon is found in the Sonoran Desert, which comprises much of the state of Sonora, Mexico, most of the southern half of the USA states of Arizona, southeastern California, most of the Baja California peninsula, and the numerous islands of the Gulf of California. Its southern third straddles 30° north latitude and is a horse latitude desert; the rest is rainshadow desert. It is lush in comparison to most other deserts. There is a moderate diversity of faunal organisms present, with 550 distinct vertebrate species having been recorded here.

The visually dominant elements of the landscape are two lifeforms that distinguish the Sonoran Desert from the other North American deserts: legume trees and large columnar cacti. This desert also supports many other organisms, encompassing a rich spectrum of some 2000 species of plants, 550 species of vertebrates, and untolled thousands of invertebrate species.

The Sonoran Desert prominently differs from the other three deserts of North America in having mild winters. Most of the area rarely experiences frost, and the biota are partly tropical in origin. Many of the perennial plants and animals are derived from ancestors in the tropical thorn-scrub to the south, their life cycles attuned to the brief summer rainy season. The winter rains, when ample, support great populations of annuals (which make up nearly half of the plant species). Some of the plants and animals are opportunistic, growing or reproducing after significant rainfall in any season.

Creosote Bush (Larrea divaricata) and White Bursage (Ambrosia dumosa) vegetation characterize the lower Colorado River Valley section of the Sonoran. The Arizona upland section to the north and east is more mesic, resulting in greater species diversity and richness. Lower elevation areas are dominated by dense communities of Creosote Bush and White Bursage, but on slopes and higher portions of bajadas, subtrees such as palo verde (Cercidium floridum, C. microphyllum) and Ironwood (Olneya tesota), saguaros (Carnegiea gigantia), and other tall cacti are abundant. Cresosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) and White Bursage (Ambrosia dumosa) form the scrub that dominates the northwest part of the Sonoran Desert. This association thrives on deep, sandy soils in the flatlands. Where the dunes allow for slight inclination of the slope, species of Mesquite (Prosopis), Cercidium, Ironwood (Olneya tesota), Candalia, Lycium, Prickly-pear (Opuntia), Fouquieria, Burrobush (Hymenoclea) and Acacia are favored. The coastal plains of Sonora are composed of an almost pure Larrea scrub. Away from the Gulf influence in the area surrounding the Pinacate, Encelia farinosa, Larrea tridentataOlneya, Cercidium, Prosopis, Fouquieria and various cacti species dominate the desert.

Many wildlife species, such as Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra sonoriensis EN), Desert Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) and the endemic Bailey's Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus baileyi) use ironwood, cacti species and other vegetation as both shelter from the harsh climate as well as a water supply. Other mammals include predators such as Puma (Felis concolor), Coyote (Canis latrans) and prey such as Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), and the Round-tailed Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tereticaudus). Other mammals able to withstand the extreme desert climate of this ecoregion include California Leaf-nosed Bat (Macrotus californicus) and Ring-tailed Cat (Bassariscus astutus).

Three endemic lizards to the Sonoran Desert are: the Coachella Fringe-toed Lizard (Uma inornata EN); the Flat-tail Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii NT); and the Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard (Uma notata NT); an endemic whiptail is the San Esteban Island Whiptail (Cnemidophorus estebanensis). Non-endemic special status reptiles in the ecoregion include the Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii VU) and the Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum NT).

There are twenty-four  anuran species occurring in the Sonoran Desert, one of which is endemic, the Sonoran Green Toad (Anaxyrus retiformis). Other anurans in the ecoregion are: California Treefrog (Pseudacris cadaverina); Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor); Lowland Burrowing Frog (Smilisca fodiens); Mexican Treefrog (Smilisca baudinii); Madrean Treefrog (Hyla eximia); Sabinal Frog (Leptodactylus melanonotus); Northwest Mexico Leopard Frog (Lithobates magnaocularis); Brown's Leopard Frog (Lithobates brownorum); Yavapai Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Mexican Cascade Frog (Lithobates pustulosus); Mexican Leaf Frog (Pachymedusa dacnicolor); Red Spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); Sinaloa Toad (Incilius mazatlanensis); Sonoran Desert Toad (Incilius alvarius); Eastern Green Toad  (Anaxyrus debilis); New Mexico Spadefoot (Spea multiplicata); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); Couch's Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus couchii); Cane Toad (Rhinella marina); Elegant Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne elegans);  Little Mexican Toad (Anaxyrus kelloggi); Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea); and Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii).

The Sonoran Desert is recognized as an exceptional birding area. Forty-one percent (261 of 622) of all terrestrial bird species found in the USA can be seen here during some season of the year. The Sonoran Desert, together with its eastern neighbor the Chihuahuan Desert, is the richest area in in the USA for birds, particularly hummingbirds. Among the bird species found in the Sonoran Desert are the saguaro-inhabiting Costa's Hummingbird (Calypte costae), Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura), Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) and Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygualis). Perhaps the most well-known Sonoran bird is the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), distinguished by its preference for running rather than flying, as it hunts scorpions, tarantulas, rattlesnakes, lizards, and other prey. The Sonoran Desert exhibits two endemic bird species, the highest level of bird endemism in the USA. The Rufous-winged Sparrow (Aimophila carpalis) is rather common in most parts of the Sonoran, but only along the central portion of the Arizona-Mexico border, seen in desert grasses admixed with brush. Rare in extreme southern Arizona along the Mexican border, the endemic Five-striped Sparrow (Aimophila quinquestriata) is predominantly found in canyons on hillsides and slopes among tall, dense scrub.

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Mojave Desert Habitat

This taxon is found in the Mojave Desert, the smallest of the four North American deserts. While the Mojave lies between the Great Basin Shrub Steppe and the Sonoran Desert, its fauna is more closely allied with the lower Colorado division of the Sonoran Desert. Dominant plants of the Mojave include Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), Many-fruit Saltbush (Atriplex polycarpa), Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Desert Holly (Atriplex hymenelytra), White Burrobush (Hymenoclea salsola), and Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia), the most notable endemic species in the region.

The Mojave’s warm temperate climate defines it as a distinct ecoregion. Mojave indicator species include Spiny Menodora (Menodora spinescens), Desert Senna (Cassia armata), Mojave Indigobush (Psorothamnus arborescens), and Shockley's Goldenhead (Acamptopappus shockleyi). The Mojave supports numerous species of cacti, including several endemics, such as Silver Cholla (Opuntia echinocarpa), Mojave Prickly Pear (O. erinacea), Beavertail Cactus (O. basilaris), and Cotton-top Cactus (Echinocactus polycephalus).

While the Mojave Desert is not so biologically distinct as the other desert ecoregions, distinctive endemic communities occur throughout. For example, the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve harbor seven species of endemic insects, including the Kelso Dunes Jerusalem Cricket (Ammopelmatus kelsoensis) and the Kelso Dunes Shieldback Katydid (Eremopedes kelsoensis). The Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard (Uma Scoparia), while not endemic to the dunes, is rare elsewhere. Flowering plants also attract butterflies such as the Mojave Sooty-wing (Pholisora libya), and the widely distributed Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui).

There are a total of eight amphibian species present in the Mojave Desert all of which are anuran species: the endemic Relict Leopard Frog (Lithobates onca); the endemic Amargosa Toad (Anaxyrus nelsoni); Lowland Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); Southwestern Toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus); Great Basin Spadefoot (Spea intermontana); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); and the Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla).

The native range of California’s threatened Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) includes the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. The Desert Tortoise has adapted for arid habitats by storing up to a liter of water in its urinary bladder. The following reptilian fauna are characteristic of the Mojave region in particular: Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum NT); Western Banded Gecko (Coleonyx variegatus), Northern Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis), Western Chuckwalla (Sauromalus obesus), and regal horned lizard (Phrynosoma solare). Snake species include the Desert Rosy Boa (Charina trivirgata gracia), Mojave Patchnose Snake (Salvadora hexalepis mojavensis), and Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus).

Endemic mammals of the ecoregion include the Mojave Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus mohavensis) and Amargosa Vole (Microtus californicus scirpensis); and the California Leaf-nosed Bat (Macrotus californicus).

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the terms: association, shrub

Brittle bush occurs in pine-oak (Pinus-Quercus) and open oak woodlands,
semidesert and desert grasslands, desert scrub, and coastal sage scrub.
Throughout most of its range, brittle bush is the dominant shrub.  It
forms extensive monospecific stands in many areas.  On south-facing
slopes and bajadas of the lower Colorado Valley in the Sonoran Desert,
vegetation is dominated by brittle bush.  On other sites in this area,
brittle bush often codominants with creosotebush (Larrea tridentata) and
teddy-bear cholla (Opuntia bigelovii) [51].  Brittle bush is also
codominant in the brittle bush-wishbonebush (Mirabilis laevis)
association, which usually occurs in coastal sage scrub on south-facing
moderately, steep slopes.  The publication describing this association is
"The community composition of California coastal sage scrub" [18].

Brittle bush is often associated with palo verde (Cercidium spp.),
saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla),
Janusia graciles, agave (Agave spp.), creosotebush, Anderson wolfberry
(Lycium andersonii), white bursage (Ambrosia dumosa), canyon ragweed
(Ambrosia ambrosioides), Opuntia spp., whitethorn acacia (Acacia
constricta), catclaw acacia (A. greggii), fourwing saltbush (Atriplex
canescens), desert hackberry (Celtis pallida), honey mesquite (Prosopis
glandulosa var. glandulosa), and several species of perennial bunchgrass
[4,14,15,28,29].
  • 4.  Bowers, Michael A. 1988. Plant associations on a Sonoran Desert bajada:        geographical correlates and evolutionary source pools. Vegetatio. 74:        107-112.  [4408]
  • 14.  Hanley, Thomas A.; Brady, Ward W. 1977. Feral burro impact on a Sonoran        Desert range. Journal of Range Management. 30(5): 374-377.  [4337]
  • 15.  Humphrey, Robert R. 1953. Forage production on Arizona ranges. III.        Mohave County: A study in range condition. Bulletin 244. Tucson, AZ:        University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 79 p.  [4440]
  • 18.  Kirkpatrick, J. B.; Hutchinson, C. F. 1977. The community composition of        Californian coastal sage scrub. Vegetatio. 35(1): 21-33.  [5612]
  • 28.  Monson, R. K.; Smith, S. D.; Gehring, J. L.; [and others]
  • 29.  Niering, William A.; Lowe, Charles H. 1984. Vegetation of the Santa        Catalina Mountains: community types and dynamics. Vegetatio. 58: 3-28.        [12037]
  • 51.  Ehleringer, James. 1982. The influence of water stress and temperature        on leaf pubescence development in Encelia farinosa. American Journal of        Botany. 69(5): 670-675.  [21948]

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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

More info for the term: cactus

   K023  Juniper - pinyon woodland
   K024  Juniper steppe woodland
   K030  California oakwoods
   K033  Chaparral
   K034  Montane chaparral
   K035  Coastal sagebrush
   K040  Saltbush - greasewood
   K041  Creosotebush
   K042  Creosotebush - bursage
   K043  Paloverde - cactus shrub
   K044  Creosotebush - tarbush
   K053  Grama - galleta steppe
   K054  Grama - tobosa prairie
   K055  Sagebrush steppe
   K056  Wheatgrass - needlegrass shrubsteppe
   K057  Galleta - three-awn shrubsteppe
   K058  Grama - tobosa shrubsteppe
   K061  Mesquite - acacia savanna
   K064  Grama - needlegrass - wheatgrass
   K065  Grama - buffalograss
   K087  Mesquite - oak savanna

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

   FRES28  Western hardwoods
   FRES29  Sagebrush
   FRES30  Desert shrub
   FRES33  Southwestern shrubsteppe
   FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub
   FRES35  Pinyon - juniper
   FRES40  Desert grasslands

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Habitat characteristics

Brittle bush is commonly found on dry, rocky or gravelly slopes and
mesas [1].  In the Sonoran Desert brittle bush is common on
south-facing, granitic slopes, volcanic slopes, upland flats, and
alluvial flats [44].  In coastal sage scrub brittle bush grows on soils
derived from alluvial deposits, sandstone, granite and diorite [44].  It
also grows on desert pavement [33].  Brittle bush grows poorly on clay
soils [16].  It occurs at elevations up to 3,000 feet (915 m)
[38,46,47].

Brittle bush is restricted to climates with long periods of limited
moisture.  The total amount of precipitation in these areas is quite
variable.  The seasonal pattern of rainfall is also variable, with some
brittle bush areas receiving most of the rain in winter, and other areas
receiving mostly summer rain [50].
  • 46.  Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock,        Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2d ed. Berkeley, CA: University of        California Press. 1085 p.  [6563]
  • 1.  Benson, Lyman; Darrow, Robert A. 1981. The trees and shrubs of the        Southwestern deserts. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.        [18066]
  • 16.  James, Dan. 1992. Some principles and practices of desert revegetation        seeding. Arid Lands Newsletter. 32: 22-27.  [18635]
  • 33.  Rautenstrauch, Kurt R.; Krausman, Paul R.; Whiting, Frank M.; Brown,        William H. 1988. Nutritional quality of desert mule deer forage in King        Valley, Arizona. Desert Plants. 8(4): 172-174.  [2768]
  • 38.  Thornburg, Ashley A. 1982. Plant materials for use on surface-mined        lands. SCS-TP-157. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil        Conservation Service. 88 p.  [3769]
  • 44.  Westman, Walter E. 1981. Factors influencing the distribution of species        of Californian coastal sage scrub. Ecology. 62(2): 439-455.  [11032]
  • 47.  Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA:        University of California Press. 1905 p.  [6155]
  • 50.  Cunningham, G. L.; Strain, B. R. 1969. An ecological significance of        seasonal leaf variability in a desert shrub. Ecology. 50: 400-408.        [4598]

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Habitat: Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

    68  Mesquite
    72  Southern scrub oak
   239  Pinyon - juniper
   241  Western live oak
   242  Mesquite
   255  California coast live oak

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General Ecology

Fire Management Implications

More info for the terms: cover, density, shrubs

Fires are infrequent in the Sonoran Desert owing to limited biomass,
wide spacing between shrubs and sparse ground cover.  Successional
studies in creosotebush scrub reveal postdisturbance recolonization by
long-lived species is very slow and may require hundreds of years.
Fires may have long-term impacts on the structure and composition of
this community.  Brittle bush is a good colonizer after fire.  Fires in
creosotebush scrub have resulted in an increase in brittle bush
frequency and density.  Recent fires have converted creosotebush scrub
at Palm Springs to brittle bush coastal sage scrub similar in
composition to the stands covering semiarid interior valleys around
Riverside, California.

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Season/Severity Classification

More info for the term: series

Beginning in 1978, a series of fires spread through dried herbaceous
fuels into extensive areas of creosotebush (Larrea tridentata) scrub.  The
flames reduced the herb layer to a low stubble, indicative of
fast-moving, low-intensity fires.  Fires occurred in June, July, August,
or September.

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Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire

This fire study provides information on postfire responses of plant
species in communities that include brittle bush:

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: density, wildfire, xeric

Brittle bush wind-dispersed seeds readily invade postfire environments
and often become well established [7,22].  Following prescribed fires in
the upper Sonoran Desert, brittle bush underwent an initial 83 percent
reduction in density, but within 9 months it increased to 762 percent of
preburn density.  This was a result of very successful seed germination
and subsequent seedling establishment [9].  In southern California
coastal sage scrub, fires were followed by rapid brittle bush seedling
establishment.  Brittle bush accounted for most of the seedlings
observed during the first growing season.  Recent fires have converted
cresotebush scrub at Palm Springs, California, to brittle bush coastal
sage scrub [7].

Brittle bush is categorized as a weakly-sprouting species [7,26].  Three
to five growing seasons after fire in creosotebush scrub, brittle bush
sprouting was rare [7].  Following a June 15, 1981 wildfire in coastal
sage scrub, only 4 to 30 percent of the top-killed brittle bush shrubs
regenerated by crown sprouting.  Maximum sprouting occurred on
north-facing slopes.  The likelihood of brittle bush recovery from fire
by sprouting is greater on cool, less xeric sites where fires are often
less severe, and less on the hot, xeric sites [26].  However, 1 year
after a hot, summer fire in Sonora, Mexico, surviving brittle bush
plants sprouted vigorously [53].

Postfire brittle bush densities for east and west exposures 1.5 years
after a June coastal sage scrub fire were 79 to 205 percent of prefire
densities on east, south, and west exposures.  On north-facing slopes,
postfire brittle bush density was less than 4 percent of prefire
density.  More than 90 percent of the regeneration consisted of
seedlings [26].
  • 7.  Brown, David E.; Minnich, Richard A. 1986. Fire and changes in creosote        bush scrub of the western Sonoran Desert, California. American Midland        Naturalist. 116(2): 411-422.  [537]
  • 9.  Cave, George H.; Patten, Duncan T. 1984. Short-term vegetation responses        to fire in the upper Sonoran Desert. Journal of Range Management. 37(6):        491-496.  [610]
  • 22.  Loftin, Samuel Robert. 1987. Postfire dynamics of a Sonoran Desert        ecosystem. Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University. 97 p. Thesis.  [12296]
  • 26.  Martin, Bradford D. 1984. Influence of slope aspect on postfire        reproduction of Encelia farinosa (Asteraceae). Madrono. 31(3): 187-189.        [4936]
  • 53.  Ibarra, Fernando A.; Martin, Martha H.; Torres, L. Ricardo; [and        others]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

Brittle bush is often top-killed or completely killed by fire.  Nearly
all brittle bush plants in a coastal sage scrub community were
top-killed or killed by a June 1981 fire [26].  Following a fast-moving,
low-severity fire in creosotebush scrub, brittle bush plants were mostly
scorched.  Only leaves and branches near the ground burned, leaving
foliage on ultimate stems.  However, brittle bush suffered 93 percent
mortality [7].  A hot summer fire in Sonora, Mexico, killed 32 percent
of mature brittle bush plants and 60 percent of seedlings.  Burning in 2
consecutive years killed 70 percent of mature plants and 90 percent of
seedlings.  The remaining plants were injured and had not recovered
after 3 years [53].
  • 7.  Brown, David E.; Minnich, Richard A. 1986. Fire and changes in creosote        bush scrub of the western Sonoran Desert, California. American Midland        Naturalist. 116(2): 411-422.  [537]
  • 26.  Martin, Bradford D. 1984. Influence of slope aspect on postfire        reproduction of Encelia farinosa (Asteraceae). Madrono. 31(3): 187-189.        [4936]
  • 53.  Ibarra, Fernando A.; Martin, Martha H.; Torres, L. Ricardo; [and        others]

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the term: shrub

   Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)
   Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown

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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: root crown, shrubs

Brittle bush is a good initial offsite colonizer of postfire communities
via wind dispersed seeds [7,22,26].  It also has some ability to sprout
from the root crown, which may be limited by intolerance of heat [45].
Brittle bush does not accumulate organic material and windblown soil
beneath its crown, as do multiple-stemmed shrubs [49].  Recurrent fires
select for short-lived desert shrubs such as brittle bush at the expense
of long-lived species [7].
  • 7.  Brown, David E.; Minnich, Richard A. 1986. Fire and changes in creosote        bush scrub of the western Sonoran Desert, California. American Midland        Naturalist. 116(2): 411-422.  [537]
  • 22.  Loftin, Samuel Robert. 1987. Postfire dynamics of a Sonoran Desert        ecosystem. Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University. 97 p. Thesis.  [12296]
  • 26.  Martin, Bradford D. 1984. Influence of slope aspect on postfire        reproduction of Encelia farinosa (Asteraceae). Madrono. 31(3): 187-189.        [4936]
  • 45.  Westman, W. E.; O'Leary, J. F.; Malanson, G. P. 1981. The effects of        fire intensity, aspect and substrate on post-fire growth of Californian        coastal sage scrub. In: Margaris, N. S.; Mooney, H. A., eds. Components        of productivity of Mediterranean climate regions--basic and applied        aspects. The Hague, Netherlands: Dr W. Junk Pulishers: 151-179.  [13593]
  • 49.  Burk, Jack H. 1977. Sonoran Desert. In: Barbour, M. G.; Major, J., eds.        Terrestrial vegetation of California. New York: John Wiley and Sons:        869-899.  [3731]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: cover, density

Facultative Seral Species

Brittle bush usually occurs in initial and early seres [7,31,34,42]. It
is an early colonizer of disturbed sites, often replacing long-lived
perennials in postfire communities [7,31,34,40].  An open brittle bush
community may persist for decades [7].  In permanent plots in the
Sonoran Desert, brittle bush density and cover was more or less stable
over 72 years.  However, only 17 percent of seedlings survived to the
seventh year [54].
  • 7.  Brown, David E.; Minnich, Richard A. 1986. Fire and changes in creosote        bush scrub of the western Sonoran Desert, California. American Midland        Naturalist. 116(2): 411-422.  [537]
  • 31.  Prose, D. V.; Metzger, Susan K.; Wilshire, H. G. 1987. Effects of        substrate disturbance on secondary plant succession; Mojave Desert,        California. Journal of Applied Ecology. 24: 305-313.  [4590]
  • 34.  Rogers, Garry F.; Steele, Jeff. 1980. Sonoran Desert fire ecology. In:        Stokes, Marvin A.; Dieterich, John H., technical coordinators.        Proceedings of the fire history workshop; 1980 October 20-24; Tucson,        AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-81. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment        Station: 15-19.  [16036]
  • 40.  Turner, Raymond M. 1990. Long-term vegetation change at a fully        protected Sonoran Desert site. Ecology. 7(2): 464-477.  [10866]
  • 42.  Vasek, Frank C. 1979. Early successional stages in Mojave Desert scrub        vegetation. Israel Journal of Botany. 28: 133-148.  [4579]
  • 54.  Goldberg, Deborah E.; Turner, Raymond M. 1986. Vegetation change and        plant demography in permanent plots in the Sonoran Desert. Ecology.        67(3): 695-712.  [4410]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the term: competition

Sexual reproduction - Brittle bush reproduces almost exclusively by seed
[7,45].  Seeds are dispersed long distances by wind.  Brittle bush often
germinates prolifically after heavy winter rains [7].  Plants are not
frost tolerant, and frost may damage leaves and stems [39].

Reproduction may be reduced by interspecific competition.  Growth and
productivity of brittle bush is limited by the low precipitation in its
native habitat.  Neighboring brittle bush further decrease water availability,
reducing brittle bush productivity [51].

Vegetative reproduction - Brittle bush can sprout from the root crown
[7,26].

Brittle bush is allelopathic.  The leaves produce a toxic, water-soluble
substance that inhibits the growth of several winter annuals [24].
  • 7.  Brown, David E.; Minnich, Richard A. 1986. Fire and changes in creosote        bush scrub of the western Sonoran Desert, California. American Midland        Naturalist. 116(2): 411-422.  [537]
  • 24.  Ludwig, J. A.; Cunningham, G. L.; Whitson, P. D. 1988. Distribution of        annual plants in North American deserts. Journal of Arid Environments.        15: 221-227.  [6656]
  • 26.  Martin, Bradford D. 1984. Influence of slope aspect on postfire        reproduction of Encelia farinosa (Asteraceae). Madrono. 31(3): 187-189.        [4936]
  • 39.  Turnage, William V.; Hinckley, Arthur L. 1938. Freezing weather in        relation to plant distribution in the Sonoran Desert. Ecological        Monographs. 8(2): 530-550.  [3789]
  • 45.  Westman, W. E.; O'Leary, J. F.; Malanson, G. P. 1981. The effects of        fire intensity, aspect and substrate on post-fire growth of Californian        coastal sage scrub. In: Margaris, N. S.; Mooney, H. A., eds. Components        of productivity of Mediterranean climate regions--basic and applied        aspects. The Hague, Netherlands: Dr W. Junk Pulishers: 151-179.  [13593]
  • 51.  Ehleringer, James. 1982. The influence of water stress and temperature        on leaf pubescence development in Encelia farinosa. American Journal of        Botany. 69(5): 670-675.  [21948]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: phanerophyte

  
   Phanerophyte

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Life Form

More info for the term: shrub

Shrub

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Site Description

The climate of the Coachella Valley is extremely arid.  Average annual
rainfall at Palm Springs is 5.4 inches (138 mm).  Summers are hot and
dry, although there are occasional thunderstorms, mostly over the nearby
mountains.  Coarse-textured soils are well-drained and moderately
alkaline, with a minimum of organic matter.  No information was given as
to the specific topography, slope, and elevation of each site.

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: density, resistance

Brittle bush leaves and flowers are formed whenever the water relations
are favorable [8].  This can occur any time from November through May
[35].  Under extreme drought conditions brittle bush becomes dormant and
the leaves are shed [21,50].  Brittle bush also shows seasonal variation
in leaf density and thickness.  During times of available water, leaves
expand more, are less pubescent, are less capable of reducing water
loss, and have lower resistance to carbon dioxide flux.  These
characteristics are reversed as soil water decreases and the more
mesophytic leaves abscise [50].
  • 8.  Cannon, William Austin. 1911. The root habits of desert plants.        Washington, DC: The Carnegie Institution of Washington. 96 p.  [5003]
  • 21.  Levin, Geoffrey A. 1988. How plants survive in the desert. Environment        Southwest. Summer: 20-25.  [9239]
  • 35.  Shreve, F.; Wiggins, I. L. 1964. Vegetation and flora of the Sonoran        Desert. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 2 vols.  [21016]
  • 50.  Cunningham, G. L.; Strain, B. R. 1969. An ecological significance of        seasonal leaf variability in a desert shrub. Ecology. 50: 400-408.        [4598]

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Conservation

Conservation Status

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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Management

Management considerations

More info for the term: density

Brittle bush infestation reduces forage production because brittle bush
competes strongly with buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliarus).  Several studies
were conducted to determine the effectiveness of mechanical and chemical
brittle bush control.  Mowing killed few plants but temporarily reduced
growth.  Hand removal resulted in 100 percent mortality, but brittle
bush seedlings rapidly reinvaded and densities were equal to
pretreatment levels after 3 months.  Soil-applied pelleted tebuthiuron
and picloram control brittle bush.  High intensity livestock grazing
reduced brittle bush growth, but caused no significant change in brittle
bush density after 3 years [53].
  • 53.  Ibarra, Fernando A.; Martin, Martha H.; Torres, L. Ricardo; [and        others]

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Nutritional Value

Nutritional values of brittle bush collected bimonthly in the
Picacho Mountains of Arizona in 1983 are as follows [19]:
                                      Fiber %
        Dry Matter %   Protein %     ADF    NDF      Lignin %
  
Jan-Feb   36.86         11.04       22.31  30.36     5.48
Mar-Apr   38.23         9.28        20.67  28.86     5.87
May-June  49.56         8.49        28.74  38.98     8.08
July-Aug  72.02         3.28        48.72  63.88     13.64
Sept-Oct  38.28         8.60        28.28  34.84     7.60
Nov-Dec   31.84         12.70       26.11  31.27     8.74

ADF-acid detergent fiber
NDF-nonacid detergent fiber

Nutritional value of brittle bush has also been analyzed by Seegmiller
and others [48] and Rautenstrauch and others [33].
  • 19.  Krausman, Paul R.; Ordway, Leonard L.; Whiting, Frank M.; Brown, William        H. 1990. Nutritional compostition of desert mule deer forage in the        Picacho Mountains, Arizona. Desert Plants. 10(1): 32-34.  [7259]
  • 33.  Rautenstrauch, Kurt R.; Krausman, Paul R.; Whiting, Frank M.; Brown,        William H. 1988. Nutritional quality of desert mule deer forage in King        Valley, Arizona. Desert Plants. 8(4): 172-174.  [2768]
  • 48.  Seegmiller, Rick F.; Krausman, Paul R.; Brown, William H.; Whiting,        Frank M. 1990. Nutritional composition of desert bighorn sheep forage in        the Harquahala Mountains, Arizona. Desert Plants. 10(2): 87-90.  [11943]

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Other uses and values

The stems of brittle bush exude a clear resin used by the Indians as
glue and chewing gum.  In the churches of some parts of Mexico the resin
is burned as incense [1,46].  The Seri Indians of Sonora, Mexico, use
the brittle bush twigs as a remedy for toothaches.  They also grind the
resin and sprinkle it on sores [12].
  • 46.  Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock,        Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2d ed. Berkeley, CA: University of        California Press. 1085 p.  [6563]
  • 1.  Benson, Lyman; Darrow, Robert A. 1981. The trees and shrubs of the        Southwestern deserts. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.        [18066]
  • 12.  Felger, Richard S.; Moser, Mary Beck. 1974. Seri Indian pharmacopoeia.        Economic Botany. 28: 414-436.  [2767]

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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

Brittle bush is most valuable for rehabilitating low maintenance
landscapes, critical stabilization areas, and disturbed areas.  It is
easily transplanted or can be established by direct seeding.  Seeds and
plants are available in limited quantities [38].  Brittle bush is used
to minimize erosion and sediment damage near highways in Arizona [6].
  • 6.  Brady, E. LeRoy. 1991. Use of native plants for roadside revegetation.        In: Rangeland Technology Equipment Council, 1991 annual report.        9222-2808-MTDC. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest        Service, Technology and Development Program: 15-16.  [17081]
  • 38.  Thornburg, Ashley A. 1982. Plant materials for use on surface-mined        lands. SCS-TP-157. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil        Conservation Service. 88 p.  [3769]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Brittle bush is a browse species of desert mule deer and desert bighorn
sheep [19,48].  Brittle bush has no forage value for domestic livestock
[15].  In a laboratory study, kangaroo rats ate brittle bush seeds, but
they were not preferred [23].  Several species of breeding birds inhabit
the brittle bush-ironwood (Olneya tesota) community of foothills and
bajadas [17].
  • 15.  Humphrey, Robert R. 1953. Forage production on Arizona ranges. III.        Mohave County: A study in range condition. Bulletin 244. Tucson, AZ:        University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 79 p.  [4440]
  • 17.  Johnson, R. Roy; Haight, Lois T.; Riffey, Meribeth M.; Simpson, James M.        1980. Brushland/steppe bird populations. In: DeGraaf, Richard M.,        technical coordinator. Management of western forests and grasslands for        nongame birds: Workshop proceedings; 1980 February 11-14; Salt Lake        City, UT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-86. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment        Station: 98-112.  [17900]
  • 19.  Krausman, Paul R.; Ordway, Leonard L.; Whiting, Frank M.; Brown, William        H. 1990. Nutritional compostition of desert mule deer forage in the        Picacho Mountains, Arizona. Desert Plants. 10(1): 32-34.  [7259]
  • 23.  Longland, William S. 1987. Seed and seed patch use by three heteromyid        rodent species. In: Frasier, Gary W.; Evans, Raymond A., eds.        Proceedings of symposium: "Seed and seedbed ecology of rangeland        plants"; 1987 April 21-23; Tucson, AZ. Washington, DC: U.S. Department        of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service: 122-130.  [15298]
  • 48.  Seegmiller, Rick F.; Krausman, Paul R.; Brown, William H.; Whiting,        Frank M. 1990. Nutritional composition of desert bighorn sheep forage in        the Harquahala Mountains, Arizona. Desert Plants. 10(2): 87-90.  [11943]

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Wikipedia

Encelia farinosa

Brittlebush flower, in Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona

Encelia farinosa, or brittlebush, is a common desert shrub of northwestern Mexico through California and the southwestern United States. Its common name comes from the brittleness of its stems.

Other names include "hierba del vaso" (Spanish) and "cotx" (Seri).[1] Another Spanish name for it is "incienso" because the dried sap was burned by early Spanish Missions in the New World as incense.

Habitat[edit]

Encelia farinosa can be found in a variety of habitats from dry gravelly slopes to open sandy washes up to 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). It does well in cultivation and recently has spread dramatically in areas not natural to its distribution in large part because Caltrans has begun to use it in hydroseeding.

Description[edit]

Encelia farinosa grows up to 30 to 150 centimetres (12 to 59 in) tall,[2] with fragrant leaves 3–8 cm long, ovate to deltoid, and silvery tomentose. The capitula are 3–3.5 cm in diameter, with orange-yellow ray florets and yellow or purple-brown disc florets. They are arranged in loose panicles above the leafy stems fruit 3–6 mm and there is no pappus.

3-Acetyl-6-methoxybenzaldehyde is a chemical compound found in the leaves of E. farinosa.[3]

Varieties[edit]

Two varieties of E. farinosa are recognized:

  • Encelia farinosa var. farinosa Gray ex. Torr.
  • Encelia farinosa var. phenicodonta (Blake) I.M. Johnston

Varieties formerly included E. farinosa var. radians, now regarded as a separate species E. radians Brandegee.[4]

Uses[edit]

Brittlebush has a long history of uses by indigenous and pioneer peoples.

  • Glue: The resin collected from the base of the plant, yellowish to brown in color, can be heated and used as a glue. The O'odham and Seri use it for hafting, to hold points on arrows and harpoons.[1]
  • Sealer: A different sort of resin is collected from the upper stems, is more gummy and generally a clear yellow. The Seri use this to seal pottery vessels.[1]
  • Incense: Early Spanish friars learned that the resin made a highly fragrant incense, akin to frankincense in odor.[5]
  • Gum: The Sells area Tohono O'odham children use upper stem resin as a passable chewing gum.
  • Toothbrush: Oldtime cowboys used brittlebush stem as a fine toothbrush. Simply select a largish branch and peel off the bitter bark, no need for toothpaste.
  • Medicinal: Seri use brittlebush to treat toothache. For toothache the bark is removed, the branch heated in ashes, and then placed in the mouth to "harden" a loose tooth.[1]
E. farinosa in California's Colorado Desert.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Felger, Richard Stephen; Moser, Mary Beck (1985). People of the Desert and Sea: Ethnobotany of the Seri Indians (2. print. ed.). Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0816508186. 
  2. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (ed.) Brittlebush – Encelia farinosa at the Encyclopedia of Life. Accessed 1 April 2013.
  3. ^ Gray, Reed; Bonner, James (19 March 1948). "Structure Determination and Synthesis of a Plant Growth Inhibitor, 3-Acetyl-6-methoxybenzaldehyde, Found in the Leaves of Encelia Farinosa". Journal of the American Chemical Society 70 (3): 1249–1253. doi:10.1021/ja01183a114. PMID 18909201. 
  4. ^ Bohm, Bruce A. (2009). The Geography of Phytochemical Races. Dordrecht: Springer. p. 112. ISBN 9781402090523. 
  5. ^ Dunmire, William W. (2004). Gardens of New Spain: How Mediterranean Plants and Foods Changed America. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-70564-7. 
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Notes

Comments

Plants of Encelia farinosa with brown-purple disc corollas, found along the Colorado and Salt rivers, and common in Baja California, are var. phenicodonta. Plants with substrigose leaves, capitulescences branched toward bases rather than distally, and ray florets reduced in both size and number are most often hybrids and backcrosses between E. farinosa and E. frutescens. P. A. Munz (1959) indicated that I. L. Wiggins had reported var. radians Brandegee ex S. F. Blake as occurring in southeastern California; that variety is known only from Baja California.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

brittle bush
inceinso
white brittle bush

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The currently accepted scientific name for brittle bush is Encelia
farinosa Gray ex. Torr. [1,35,46]. There are three recognized varieties
[35]:

Encelia farinosa var. farinosa
Encelia farinosa var. phenicodonta (Blake) I. M. Johnston
Encelia farinosa var. radians Brandegee ex. Blake
  • 46.  Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock,        Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2d ed. Berkeley, CA: University of        California Press. 1085 p.  [6563]
  • 1.  Benson, Lyman; Darrow, Robert A. 1981. The trees and shrubs of the        Southwestern deserts. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.        [18066]
  • 35.  Shreve, F.; Wiggins, I. L. 1964. Vegetation and flora of the Sonoran        Desert. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 2 vols.  [21016]

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