Salvia clevelandii

Creosote Bush

The creosote bush, also called chaparral, is one of the most common plants in Hesperia most prominent north of Main Street. The plant is a valuable erosion preventing plant and an attractive drought tolerant plant for garden landscaping. This plant is an evergreen and shows bright yellow flowers in the spring and is delightfully fragrant, particularly after a rain when it puts of a pine like odor.

The family of the creosote bush are said to be among the world’s oldest living things. Indeed, some individual plants are believed to be thousands of years old. They grow slowly to a width of six to eight feet.

In the wild, the center plant of the creosote bush will die out and new suckers will sprout around it. The plant grows in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts as far east as Texas.

This is an interesting plant. In spite of its name, creosote is not derived from the creosote bush. Creosote, the oily liquid, is made from coal tar and is highly poisonous, and is banned in California.

The creosote bush is a hardy plant that only needs water once a week in its first year and not at all after that. Its crushed leaves are resinous and aromatic. No significant commercial uses of this plant exist at the present time.

It should be noted that the plastic shopping bag appendages often evident on the plant, particularly during windy weather, are indeed shopping bags and not a natural part of the plant. This is a consequence acts of the thoughtless insect, the litterbug.

The ethnobotany of the plant is interesting. Native Americans had numerous medicinal uses. Though there is good evidence that many of these medicinal use indeed work, there is strong evidence that ingestion of this plant can cause severe liver damage if used for a little as two weeks. Numerous herbal cures are offered, particularly on the internet, and it is suggested that these products be avoided.

This is another in a series of articles to encourage the residents of Hesperia to plant native plants. In doing so, we can reduce the use of water in our town enormously. Native gardens require much less maintenance and are extremely attractive. The creosote bush can be purchased at Oak Hills Nursery. Do not try to transplant a wild one.

Here are some resources for you to read more about the rubber rabbit bush:

1. Bean, Lowell J. and Saubel, Katherine Siva, Temalpakh, Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants, Malki Museum P, 1972

2. Berkeley Museum Photo Project,

3. Manual of California Vegetation, California Native Plant Society, http://davisherb.ucdavis. edu/cnpsActiveServer/index.html

4. Native American Ethnobotany, U of Michigan, Dearborn,

5. New Crop Online Resource, Purdue University, newcrop/default.html

6. Plants for a Future,

7. Sunset Western Garden Book, 2001

8. Wasowski, Sally et al, Landscaping from El Paso to L. A., Contemporary Books, 2000