tridentata (DC.) Cov.
Life Span: Perennial
3 to 13 foot tall tree with no well-defined trunk. It has numerous
limber stems from near ground level. It is often scattered in nearly
pure stands with little variation in size. Flowers February to August,
depending on when rain falls, but it is usually in the spring. Reproduces
from rhizomes and seeds, although regeneration by seed is rare.
Plant has a creosote-like odor.
are solitary, with yellowish sepals and bright yellow petals.
Fruit is a capsule covered with dense white to red-wooly long hairs
tipped by a thread like appendage. "A white fuzzy seed ball."
and leaflets are opposite. Leaf surface is dark green to yellowish-green,
glossy, and resinous (sticky). Leaflets are thick and sickle-shaped.
The stipules at the base of the petiole are brown and hairy. Leaves
are strongly scented.
are opposite, brown in color and slender, nodes somewhat swollen
giving the plant a jointed appearance. Branches are brittle and
densely leafy at the tips.
is found on alluvial plains, hillsides, mesas, and in deserts in
the southwestern corner of Utah. It is drought tolerant and plants
can be several thousand years old.
Creosotebush, through cloning, achieves its status as one of the
most stable members of desert communities. When drought is extreme,
old branches and roots of creosotebush die back. When rains return,
branches are replaced by sprouts originating near the outside of
the root crown. Creosotebush clones gradually expand to form rings
many meters in diameter. Creosotebush may occasionally sprout from
its root crown after disturbance, such as fire.
abundant on alluvial, calcareous, sandy and gravelly soils. Usually
does not occupy saline soils.
sagebrush, red brome, yucca,
is worthless as forage for livestock and most wildlife. Jackrabbits
occasionally eat the leaves, and many small rodents, birds, and
reptiles of the desert use it for food and shelter. Onyx, the European
antelope, uses it in Southern New Mexico.
Creosotebush invades desert grasslands, and its habitat has increased
over 70 times the size it was in the 1930's. This is attributed
to decreased fire, heavy grazing, and periodic drought.
Creosotebush may cause dermatitis in humans and animals. Sheep,
especially pregnant ewes, have been reported to die after eating
American Indians used decoctions as antiseptics, medicines. It has
been highly valued for its medicinal properties by desert peoples.
It has been used to treat at least 14 illnesses. Twigs and leaves
may be boiled as tea, steamed, pounded into a powder, pressed into
a poultice, or heated into an infusion. Creosotebush has been reported
to be a treatment for malignant melanoma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Creosotebush is host to an insect, Tachardiella larreae, which produces
lac and deposits it on the stems of creosotebush. Lac is plastic
when heated but hardens again on cooling, forming a strong bond
like commercial sealing wax. Lac has been used by desert peoples
to seal lids on food jars, as glue, and for waterproofing baskets.