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Tobacco Brush
Ceanothus velutinus
About Tobacco Brush (Ceanothus velutinus) Nurseries Show All Photos Ceanothus velutinus is a species of shrub in the buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae, known by the common names Red Root, Snowbrush Ceanothus and Tobacco Brush. It is native to western North America from British Columbia to California to Colorado, where it grows in several habitat types including coniferous forest, chaparral, and various types of woodland. In California it is found primarily in the northern half of the state in the Coast Ranges, Sierras, Klamath and Modoc regions. It can grow up to 4 meters tall but generally remains under three, and forms colonies of individuals which tangle together to form nearly impenetrable thickets. The aromatic evergreen leaves are alternately arranged, each up to 8 centimeters long. The leaves are oval in shape with minute hairy teeth along the edges, and shiny green and hairless on the top surface. The plentiful flower clusters are long clusters of white flowers. The fruit is a three-lobed capsule a few millimeters long which snaps open explosively to expel the three seeds onto the soil, where they may remain in a buried seed bank for well over 200 years before sprouting. The seed is coated in a very hard outer layer that must be scarified, generally by wildfire, before it can germinate. Like most other Ceanothus, this species fixes nitrogen via actinomycetes on its roots.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Tree, Shrub

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

Max. Width
6 - 12 ft (1.8 - 3.7 m)

Upright, Mounding

Growth Rate


Flower Color
White, Green

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Openings in wooded slopes of northern California foothills and high mountains, up to 11,000 ft. as part of montane chaparral or evergreen forest

Part Shade, Sun

Elevation ?
39' - 14113'

Annual Precip. ?
5.4" - 153.8"

Summer Precip. ?
0.27" - 5.98"

Coldest Month ?
9.5° F - 52.9° F

Hottest Month ?
33.1° F - 74.4° F

Humidity ?
0.01 vpd - 27.29 vpd

Soil Description
Coarse well-drained soils, sandy loams, clay loams, loose or unstable soils

Soil PH
6.0 - 7.0

Fast, Medium, Slow

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

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 6, 7, 15, 16, 17

Wildlife Attracted
Insects, especially bees and butterflies. 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
Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Seldom Used

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Deep Organic

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: Hot water and 2-3 mos. stratification ( USDA Forest Service 1974 ).

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

Other Names
Botanical Names
Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus

Common Names
Red Root, Snowbrush Ceanothus

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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