Spotlight on Rabbitbrush

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.

Honey bee foraging pollen from rabbitbrush.

Honey bee foraging pollen from rabbitbrush in Lassen Volcanic Nat’l Park.
















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.

Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus sp.

Rabbitbrush in full bloom.

Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus sp.

Rabbitbrush pre-bloom.









Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus sp., going to seed

Rabbitbrush going to seed.

Written By: Elizabeth Frost

Elizabeth Frost has written 10 post in this blog.

As a seasonal Field and Lab Technician I work within the California Tech Transfer Team from September through May serving Northern California queen breeders. From June through August I work within the Midwest Tech Transfer Team serving both migratory beekeepers and queen breeders in Minnesota and North Dakota. Services I provide include hive inspection, sampling for Varroa and Nosema, testing breeder queen colonies for hygienic behavior, and assisting in collaborative breeding efforts utilizing instrumental insemination. I received my Bachelor of Arts Degree in 2008 from the University of California, Davis with majors in English and Italian and a minor in Entomology. Prior to joining the Tech Transfer Teams within the Bee Informed Partnership I was a Field and Lab Technician at the Harry Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility from 2008 to 2012 under the direction of Susan Cobey at the University of California, Davis. I am based out of University of California Cooperative Extension, Butte County in Oroville, CA and University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.


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