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Chaparral Whitethorn
Ceanothus leucodermis
About Chaparral Whitethorn (Ceanothus leucodermis) Nurseries Show All Photos Ceanothus leucodermis is a species of shrub in the buckthorn family Rhamnaceae known by the common name chaparral whitethorn. It is native to California and Baja California, where it grows in coastal and inland mountain habitat, such as chaparral, coniferous forest, and oak woodland. It is a thorny shrub growing erect to heights approaching 4 meters. The bark is gray-white, waxy, and somewhat hairy, especially when new. The twigs harden into sharp-tipped thorns as they age. The evergreen leaves are alternately arranged, oval in shape and up to about 4 centimeters long. The edges are smooth or lined with tiny hairy teeth. The flower cluster is a long, stalked cluster of flowers in shades of blue, lavender, or white. The fruit is a sticky, three-lobed capsule about half a centimeter long. This Ceanothus is an important browse for several types of ungulates, such as the mule deer and bighorn sheep, who prefer the new growth and shoots to the older, spiny parts.

This plant has a reputation for being difficult to grow, but if properly sited, it's fast growing and easy to keep alive. It is better suited to the mountains or interior valleys rather than the coast. In the drier part of its range, it does best on north facing slopes and on dry flats with good drainage. It's best to plant this species in the winter once the rains start, with plenty of mulch and a few nice rocks around the rootball. It's also a good idea to plant it mixed in the other shrubs to protect the roots from direct sun. After the plant is established, discontinue significant direct watering. It'll stay green all summer if there's a nearby irrigated area it can reach its roots out to.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
6 - 13.1 ft (1.8 - 4 m)

Max. Width
3 - 7 ft (0.9 - 2.1 m)

Rounded, Upright Columnar


Growth Rate

Evergreen, Summer Semi-Deciduous

Elliptic to ovate, flat, light green to pale green

Flower Color
Blue, Lavender, Purple, White

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Dry, rocky or sandy slopes in chaparral or in openings in forest or woodland

Part Shade, Sun

Elevation ?
36' - 9377'

Annual Precip. ?
7.5" - 66.4"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 2.95"

Coldest Month ?
28.0° F - 55.4° F

Hottest Month ?
49.7° F - 84.0° F

Humidity ?
0.88 vpd - 34.75 vpd

Soil Description
Dry, rocky

Soil PH
6 - 8


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 0 - 5° F

Sunset Zones ?
7*, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18*

Wildlife Attracted
Bees, butterflies, deer, and bighorn sheep in their range. Plants in the Ceanothus genus are host plants to the Spring Azure, Echo Blue, Pacuvius Duskywing, California Tortoiseshell, Pale Swallowtail, and Hedgerow Hairstreak butterflies.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Seldom Used

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water, 1x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Organic with Rocks

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: Hot water and 1-3 mos. stratification. Hot water only may give satisfactory germination.

Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Hedges, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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