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    Gutierrezia sarothrae (Gutierrezia), Petradoria pumila (Rock Goldenrod), and the various species of Chrysothamnus and Ericameria (Rabbitbrushes) are often difficult to tell apart. Click for some assistance.  

There are a number of Rabbitbrushes in the Four Corners area; the two most common are Ericameria nauseosus and Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus.  Both have similar habitats. They vary a bit in their elevation: Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus ranges from the high desert into the lower mountains.  Ericameria nauseosa, the most common Rabbitbrush in our area, is found in the high desert and low foothills. E. nauseosa often grows seven feet tall and wide with a wide-spreading open crown. Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus grows to three or four feet tall with a tighter growth pattern; it has sticky flowers and its leaves are often twisted.

Ericameria nauseosus is also distinguished from C. viscidiflorus (and most other Ericameria and Chrysothamnus) by the thick, felt-like white hairs covering its twigs. In fact, William Weber (Colorado Flora expert) begins his key for these two genera (both of which he includes in Chrysothamnus) by asking if the plant being keyed has a thick covering of hairs on its stems.

The Flora of North America separates the two genera by indicating that the Chrysothamnus genus has phyllaries unequal in length and arranged in vertical ranks whereas the Ericameria genus has phyllaries either equal or unequal in length and these phyllaries are arranged in spirals.

Both E. nauseosus and C. viscidiflorus seed themselves readily and therefore often sprout dozens of plants in one area.

All the Rabbitbrush species shown on this web site are late flowering, usually in late July, August, and September when their crowns become a bright golden glow of flowers.  This glow gave rise to the Latin name "Chryso" "thamnus", "golden" "bush" which was the name Thomas Nuttall gave this genus in the early 19th century for its "affinity to [the genus] Chrysocoma and brilliant golden yellow flowers."

Nuttall also named the Ericameria genus from the Greek "ereike" (heath) and "meris" (part), referring to the heath-like leaves.

Ericameria parryi.  Synonym: Chrysothamnus parryi.  (Rabbitbrush)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Foothills, montane. Open woodlands, meadows. Summer, fall.
Fish Creek Trail, August 9, 2005.
Wildcat Trail, August 28, 2007.

Ericameria parryi grows to a bit more than two feet tall and is found at woodland borders and in meadows.  Long, narrow, sometimes sticky leaves sometimes spiral, and flowers and flower heads are large compared to other members of the genus.  The often sticky phyllaries are 10+ millimeters long and slightly keeled and flowerheads are numerous in spike or raceme-like arrangements. 

There are a number of subspecies differing in the number of flowers per head, the hairiness of the leaves and stems, the height of the plant, etc.

Hall and Harbour are given credit with collecting this species on an 1862 trip in Colorado led by the eminent botanist Charles Parry.  Asa Gray named the species Linosyris parryi in 1863, it was renamed Chrysothamnus parryi by Edward Greene in 1895, and it has had many other names, the latest and now most widely accepted being that given by Nesom and Baird in 1993: Ericameria parryi.  (Click for more biographical information about Parry.) 

Ericameria parryi

Ericameria parryi

Ericameria parryi.  Synonym: Chrysothamnus parryi.  (Rabbitbrush)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Foothills, montane. Open woodlands, meadows. Summer, fall.
Fish Creek Trail, August 9, 2005 and Lower Calico Trail, July 30, 2013.

Phyllaries, the light green structures that surround the side of each flower cluster, are divided into two types: the outer phyllaries are long, narrow, and taper to a point; the inner are shorter and usually light green to papery-white; both are only slightly keeled, i.e., humped or raised like a ship's keel and both inner and outer phyllaries are often sticky.

Branches of Ericameria parryi have an upright posture. Note the light stem color, a characteristic due to abundant hairs which are usually present on this species and E. nauseosus, but not on the other species of Ericameria and Chrysothamnus in the Four Corners region.

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus variety viscidiflorus (Sticky Rabbitbrush)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Woodlands, meadows, disturbed areas. Late summer, fall.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 21, 2005 and Can-Do Trail, McPhee Reservoir, September 17, 2010.

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus blooms in late summer-to-fall with an abundance of tiny flowers clustered into a golden-yellow glow.  The shrub is usually evenly rounded, it is typically eight-to-twenty inches tall (but may be three or four feet tall), the base of the flower cluster is commonly sticky (hence the Latin "viscidiflorus" meaning "sticky flower"), its leaves are very often twisted into a gentle spiral, and the stems are smooth without a whitish, hairy coating. Ericameria viscidiflorus, a very common species with which C. viscidiflorus is commonly confused, has white-hairy stems and grows to six feet tall and round.

Some people are allergic to the peppery-sweet scent of the pollen of the various species of Chrysothamnus and Ericameria.

The first specimens C. viscidiflorus were collected by David Douglas along the Columbia River in 1826 and the plant was first named Crinitaria viscidiflora by William Hooker in 1834; in 1841 Thomas Nuttall gave the plant its present name. "Viscidiflorus" means "sticky flowered". 

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus variety viscidiflorus (Sticky Rabbitbrush)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Woodlands, meadows, disturbed areas. Late summer, fall.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 21, 2005.

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus variety viscidiflorus (Sticky Rabbitbrush)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Woodlands, meadows, disturbed areas. Late summer, fall.
Can-Do Trail, McPhee Reservoir, September 17, 2010 and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 12, 2013.

Leaves of this very common variety of C. viscidiflorus are commonly twisted and glabrous or sometimes ciliate.

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus.

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus

Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus variety viscidiflorus (Sticky Rabbitbrush)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Woodlands, meadows, disturbed areas. Late summer, fall.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 21, 2005.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Ericameria parryi

Range map for Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus