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Creosote Bush
Larrea tridentata
About Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) Nurseries Show All Photos Larrea tridentata, known as Creosote Bush is a flowering plant in the family Zygophyllaceae. It is a prominent species in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts of western North America, including portions of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and western Texas in the United States, and northern Chihuahua in Mexico. In California it is found from Inyo County southward in desert areas only. It is an evergreen shrub growing to 1-3 meter tall, rarely 4 meter. The stems of the plant bear resinous, dark green leaves with two leaflets joined at the base, each leaflet 7-18 millimeter long and 4-8.5 millimeter broad. The yellow flowers are up to 25 millimeter diameter, with five yellow petals. The plant is extraordinarily tolerant of drought, saline or alkaline soils, and adapted to desert conditions. It reproduces by seed and also by sending up new shoots from the roots. The latter results in the creation of clonal rings, some of which are among the oldest known plants at around 11,000 years. Galls may form by the activity of the creosote gall midge. The whole plant exhibits a characteristic odor of creosote (especially when wet), from which the common name derives. Native people use the plant for medicinal purposes.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
3.3 - 12 ft (1 - 3.7 m)

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

Fragrant - Pleasant

Growth Rate
Moderate, Slow


Flower Color

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Mountains, valleys, and washes of the southern California deserts


Elevation ?
-214' - 7070'

Annual Precip. ?
1.9" - 29.7"

Summer Precip. ?
0.12" - 2.93"

Coldest Month ?
33.2° F - 63.3° F

Hottest Month ?
61.5° F - 90.9° F

Humidity ?
1.66 vpd - 49.31 vpd

Soil Description
Almost always found in rocky, sandy or gravelly soil

Soil PH
6.5 - 8.5

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Saline Soil, Tolerates Sodic Soil


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 10° F

Sunset Zones ?
7, 8*, 9*, 10*, 11*, 12*, 13*, 14*, 18, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22, 23

Wildlife Attracted
Numerous insects are attracted to the flowers. Various birds are attracted to the seeds.

Butterflies ?

Thyridopteryx meadii Image
Thyridopteryx meadiiThyridopteryx meadii
Stenoporpia pulchella Image
Stenoporpia pulchellaStenoporpia pulchella

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

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

Seldom Used

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


Prune to shape in late fall or early winter

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: Soak, preferably in distilled water, overnight; germinate in dark under hot bed conditions [optimum temperature 73°F constant). Germination percentage may be low. Germinating seedlings intolerant of water stress [Barbour 1968; Mabry et al. 1977).

Common uses
Hedges, Deer Resistant, 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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