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Home>Plant Species>Native Species>Rubber rabbitbrush

Drawing of rubber rabbitbrush Rubber rabbitbrush
Chrysothamnus nauseosus (Ericameria nauseosa)

question markDid you know?

Rubber rabbitbrush is one of the first shrubs to grow after a fire!

 

What is rubber rabbitbrush?
Rubber rabbitbrush, or grey rabbitbrush, is a fast growing native shrub. While similar to sagebrush, it grows faster and competes less with forbs and grasses, thus filling an important part of the post-disturbance plant community.

Rubber rabbitbrush flowers

True to its name, rubber rabbitbrush can be used to make rubber, but the process is not cost-effective. Compounds in rubber rabbitbrush are still being investigated for medicine and as an insect repellent. American Indians used it to make chewing gum, tea, cough syrup, and yellow dye. The rubbery twigs were used in making baskets.

What are its characteristics?
This shrub normally grows 1-7 feet tall and may have several stems from the base that branch to give plants a rounded appearance. Narrow, yellow-green leaves and flexible twigs are covered with felt-like hairs that reduce transpiration and water loss. Rubber rabbitbrush favors sunny, open sites, and is particularly common where recent disturbance has occurred. It is cold hardy, and tolerates moderately salty soils. In the Great Basin, rubber rabbitbrush grows from 3,000 to 8,000 feet elevation.

It reproduces from seeds and resprouts following fires. Clusters of small golden yellow flowers adorn the shrub canopy from mid-summer to early fall. In late fall, seeds are dispersed by wind, but they do not persist in the seedbank. Germination occurs easily, but seedlings often do not live unless late spring rains replenish soil moisture. Often, seedling establishment occurs near other shrubs where shading reduces moisture loss. This species rapidly colonizes disturbed sites, but stands decline over time.

What’s its value to the Great Basin? Rubber rabbitbrush plant
Wildlife only lightly forage on this species, but winter use can be heavy. It can be an important early winter food source for mule deer. Black-tailed jackrabbits eat the stems and leaves in the fall and winter. Rubber rabbitbrush provides good cover for many nesting birds. It is of little worth to livestock, though sheep use it some during the winter.

Rubber rabbitbrush is often considered less valuable than sagebrush.

What is its restoration potential?
The biggest benefit of rubber rabbitbrush is that it grows quickly, prevents soil erosion, and provides a shrub component until slower growing species out-compete it. Establishment is relatively easy, and seed dispersal is rapid. Where erosion potential is high, less palatable subspecies can be planted to deter herbivory.

Images:
-Drawing:USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 3: 376.
-Flower:Christopher L. Christie © 2005.
-Plant: National Plants Database © Gary A. Monroe.

Text references:
-Tirmenstein, D. 1999. Chrysothamnus nauseosus. Leymus cinereus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: (http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/, 26 September 2006).
-USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 26 September 2006). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
-Utah State University, Extension. 2006. Range Plants of Utah website (http://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/index.htm, 26 September 2006).