Sources of fall forage are ever important as we head into winter in California. With a bloom period ranging from August through October, rabbitbrush is one such source that provides both nectar and pollen. There are many species of rabbitbrush which range from British Columbia in the North to New Mexico in the South, California in the West to Nebraska in the East. Of these species of Chrysothamnus I will focus on one, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus. Commonly known as yellow or sometimes green rabbitbrush, this plant is a member of the family Asteraceae. In California, C. viscidiflorus ranges from the Cascade and Klamath Ranges in the north to the desert mountains of Riverside County in the south and can be found from 2,900 to 13,123 feet elevation. C. viscidiflorus is found almost exclusively in the eastern half of the state within pinyon-juniper woodlands and sagebrush lands. At this time of year Lassen Volcanic National Park is a great location to spot stands of rabbitbrush along Highway 89.
Chrysothamnus, literally meaning “golden shrub” in Greek, is aptly named. The vibrant yellow blooms are attractive to a multitude of native pollinators in addition to the honey bee. C. viscidiflorus is a shrub that can reach three feet at maturity. It is highly drought-tolerant and adapted to medium to coarse soil types and full-sun conditions. These characteristics make it an attractive plant for water-conscious landscaping in the West. In addition to its nutritional value to pollinators and value as a drought-tolerant ornamental, C. viscidiflorus also has a history of ethnobotanical uses ranging from toothache relief to the recreational chewing of roots as gum. For a list of National Parks where rabbitbrush can be found, look up Chrysothamnus species in the CRC Ethnobotany Desk Reference by Timothy Johnson available online.