Larrea tridentata

Accession Count: 28
Common Name: Creosote, Greasewood
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Family Name: Zygophyllaceae
Botanical Name: Larrea tridentata
Sub Species:
Variety:
Forma:
Cultivar:
Characteristics: L. tridentata is an evergreen perennial with a shrub growth habit, branched and knotty, growing up to 12 feet tall. The bark is a light grey color, patterned with darker shaded, swollen nodes. The small, lanceolate leaves have an opposite phyllotaxy, young leaves are resinous and coated with natural oils that conserve water. During dry periods, creosote leaves fold in half to reduce exposure to the sun and turn a yellow-green color (3). After rainfall leaves are observed to turn a darker shade of green and release an aroma that is described by desert-dwellers as the “smell of rain” (1). The plant blooms bright yellow flowers in the spring, and is also able to flower in summer and fall depending on available moisture. Its solitary and axillary inflorescence sprout flowers that are yellow with five petals, twisting 90 degrees after pollination and growing into white, fuzzy, ball-shaped fruit. L. tridentata take 13 years to reach reproductive maturity and is known to produce satellite clones which sprout outwardly in a ring-like fashion from the root crown (1).
Compound: Lar tri
Geographic Origin: Sonoran Desert
Ecozone Origin: Nearctic
Biome Origin: SW
Natural History:
The creosote bush is predominant in the Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan desert regions, and distributed in regions across Southwestern United States ranging from Southern California to Western Texas and Northern Mexico (4).
Cultivation Notes: This is a highly drought tolerant shrub that grows best on rocky ground with calcareous, sandy, or alluvial soils. The shrub requires high soil oxygen and full sun exposure for growth, making it an excellent xeriscape ornamental that thrives with minimal amount of watering. The most effective method of propagation begins with drying the seeds, hulling, and finally applying scarification by boiling and soaking the seeds in hot water overnight. Seeds should be sown in well-drained soil (4).
Ethnobotany: Native Americans have traditionally used the creosote bush to treat a large variety of ailments. Muscle pain, bone pain, nausea, paralysis and arthritis are among just a fraction of the maladies it is used to treat. Pima Indians pulverize and steep its leaves into tea that treat common colds, fevers, ulcers, digestion problems, liver and kidney maladies. Its chemical properties also make it highly effective at treating infections and open wounds such as snake bites. Its multifaceted use isn’t just limited to its medicinal properties, it makes an excellent ornamental in xeric gardens (2).

Height: 6 - 10 feet
Width: 6 - 10 feet
Growth Rate: Slow Growing
Grow Season: Summer
Flower Season: Spring
Color: Yellow
Function: Screen
Spread: Non-spreading
Allergen: Non-allergenic
Invasive: Benign
Toxicity: Benign
Hardy: Hardy
Water Use: Low water Use

Citations:
  1. Warren, Jones and Sacamano, Charles. Landscape Plants for Dry Regions. Cambridge, MA. Fisher Books, 2000. Print.
  2. Phillips, Steven J. and Comus, Patricia Wentworth. A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert. Tucson: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Press, 2000. Print.
  3. Nabhan, Gary Paul. Gathering the Desert. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1985. Print.
  4. Garden Oracle. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
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Larrea tridentata