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Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
Shrubs Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)

General: Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) is deciduous, spreading, many branched shrub typically 6-feet wide and 3-feet high with many horizontal (sprawling, unkempt) gray stems and a rounded crown.

Antelope Bitterbrush is not common around Las Vegas. Look for this species in vegetation communities in middle-elevation canyons and ridges in the Upper Sonoran (Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) life zone on the west side of the Spring Mountains, over in Zion National Park, and points northward to British Columbia.


Family: Rose (Rosaceae).

Other names: Buckbrush

Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)

Plant Form: Spreading, many-branched shrub (many horizontal, sprawling, unkempt) with gray stems and a rounded crown.

Height: Usually 3-4 feet high (to about 6 feet).

Bark: Thin, grayish to brown.

Stems: Young twigs slender, reddish brown, smooth, becoming reddish gray-brown with age. Many short, spur-like branchlets.

Leaves: Deciduous. Small (1/4 to 3/4 inches long). Alternate. Leaflets wedge-shaped with a 3-lobed tip; green to gray-green above and grayish-white (densely white-woolly) below; short petiole, edges entire and rolled under. Non-aromatic, which is in contrast to Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) that has a similarly shaped leaf.

Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)

Flowers: Small (1/3 inch across) cream to yellow, typical wildrose-type with flared petals and many stamens. Petals 5; sepals 5. Flowers borne singly at tips of shoots. Blooms in spring and early summer.

Seeds: Small, elongate (1/4 inch) black seed attached to a long plume. Dried plumes and seeds are lofted by winds. Bitter tasting. Matures late summer to early fall. About 5 plumed seeds per flower.

Habitat: Dry, well-drained sandy, gravelly, and rocky soils on upper bajadas and moderate slopes in the lower mountains into the Yellow-Pine belt.

Elevation: 3,000 to 10,000 feet

Distribution: Western U.S. and British Columbia.

Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)

Comments: Cliffrose (Purshia stansburiana) and Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) occur in the same habitats, flowering in the spring, have similar flowers and leaves, and hybridize. Cliffrose tends to grow as an upright subtree (to 8-9 feet), while Bitterbrush tends to be a lower, spreading shrub.

Bitterbrush is important browse for cattle, sheep, and goats, especially in late fall and winter when the ground is snow-covered. It is usually not eaten by horses. It is excellent browse for many species of wildlife, and can be critical winter browse for mule deer.

Two ecotypes, (a) multiple-stemmed, reclining (decumbent) plants, most commonly found at higher elevations, and (b) single-stemmed, columnar plants. A similar species, Desert Bitterbrush (P. glandulosa [syn. P. tridentata var. glandulosa]). The leaves are green, hairless or nearly so, has depressed glands on in-rolled leaf edges, and the shrub is evergreen.

Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
Bitterbrush is a sprawling, unkempt, many branched shrub that typically is 6-feet wide and 3-feet high with many horizontal stems and a rounded crown. Photo © Steve Hegji 2010,
Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
Many 1/3-inch pale yellow flowers densely packed onto stems are produced in spring and early summer. Photo © Steve Hegji 2010,
Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
Wildrose-type flower with 5 flared petals and many stamens
Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
Old flowers and leaves
Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
Old flowers and leaves; note that fruits are beginning to develop
more to come ...

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
copyright; Last updated 141119

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