Encelia farinosa

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Brittlebush
Encelia farinosa form.jpg
near Palm Springs, California
Scientific classification
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E. farinosa
Binomial name
Encelia farinosa
Brittlebush flower, in Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona

Encelia farinosa (commonly known as brittlebush, brittlebrush, or incienso), is a common desert shrub of northern Mexico (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, and Hidalgo) and the southwestern United States (California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada).[1][2][3]

The common name "brittlebush" comes from the brittleness of its stems. Other names include hierba del vaso (Spanish) and cotx (Seri).[4] Another Spanish name for it is incienso because the dried sap was burned by early Spanish missions in the New World as incense.

Habitat[edit]

E. farinosa can be found in a variety of habitats from dry, gravelly slopes to open, sandy washes up to 1,000 m (3,300 ft). It requires a very sunny position in a deep very well-drained soil, and minimal winter frost.[5]

It does well in cultivation often being used for border, erosion control, ground cover and massing.[6] Recently the plant has spread dramatically in areas not natural to its distribution in large part because Caltrans has begun to use it in hydroseeding.[citation needed]

Description[edit]

Brittlebush grows up to 30 to 150 cm (12 to 59 in) tall,[7] with fragrant leaves 3–8 centimetres (1.2–3.1 in) long, ovate to deltoid, and silvery tomentose. The capitula are 3.0–3.5 cm in diameter, with orange-yellow ray florets and yellow or purple-brown disc florets. They are arranged in loose panicles above the leafy stems fruit 3–6 mm and no pappus is visible.[1] During dry seasons the plant goes drought deciduous, shedding all of its foliage, relying on the water stored in its thick stems.[5]

3-Acetyl-6-methoxybenzaldehyde is found in the leaves of E. farinosa.[8]

Varieties[edit]

Two varieties of E. farinosa are recognized by Flora of North America.[1]

  • E. f. var. farinosa – yellow disc florets
  • E. f. var. phenicodonta (Blake) I.M.Johnston – purple-brown disc florets

Varieties formerly included E. f. var. radians, now regarded as a separate species E. radians Brandegee.[9]

Uses[edit]

Brittlebush has a long history of uses by indigenous and pioneer peoples.

  • Glue: The resin collected from the base of the plant, yellowish to brown, can be heated and used as a glue. The O'odham and Seri use it for hafting, to hold points on arrows and harpoons.[4]
  • Sealer: A different sort of resin collected from the upper stems is more gummy and generally a clear yellow. The Seri use this to seal pottery vessels.[4]
  • Incense: Early Spanish friars learned that the resin made a highly fragrant incense, akin to frankincense in odor.[10]
  • Gum: The Sells area Tohono O'odham children use upper stem resin as a passable chewing gum.[11]
  • Toothbrush: Oldtime cowboys used brittlebush stem as a fine toothbrush. [11]
  • Medicinal: Seri use brittlebush to treat toothache; the bark is removed, the branch heated in ashes, and then placed in the mouth to "harden" a loose tooth.[4] The Cahuilla used brittlebush to treat toothaches as well,[12] and used it as a chest pain reliever by heating the gum and applying it to the chest.[12][13]
  • Waterproofing: It has been used to waterproof containers.[6]
  • Varnish: It has been melted then used as a varnish.[6]
E. farinosa in California's Colorado Desert

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Encelia farinosa in Flora of North America". Efloras.org. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  2. ^ "Photographic image of distribution map" (PNG). Bonap.net. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  3. ^ "Biota of North America Program 2014 county distribution map". Bonap.net. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d Felger, Richard Stephen; Moser, Mary Beck (1985). People of the Desert and Sea: Ethnobotany of the Seri Indians (2. print. ed.). Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0816508186.
  5. ^ a b Gacsi/Morgan, April/Steve (January 1992). Deserts of the Southwest Self Guided Tour. Riverside, California: University of California, Riverside Botanic Gardens. p. 10.
  6. ^ a b c "Encelia farinosa Brittle Bush, Brittlebush, Incienso PFAF Plant Database". www.pfaf.org. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  7. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (ed.) "Brittlebush – Encelia farinosa" at the Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  8. ^ Gray, Reed; Bonner, James (19 March 1948). "Structure Determination and Synthesis of a Plant Growth Inhibitor, 3-Acetyl-6-methoxybenzaldehyde, Found in the Leaves of Encelia Farinosa". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 70 (3): 1249–1253. doi:10.1021/ja01183a114. PMID 18909201.
  9. ^ Bohm, Bruce A. (2009). The Geography of Phytochemical Races. Dordrecht: Springer. p. 112. ISBN 9781402090523.
  10. ^ Dunmire, William W. (2004). Gardens of New Spain: How Mediterranean Plants and Foods Changed America. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-70564-7.
  11. ^ a b Soule, Jacqueline A. (2012). Father Kinos's Herbs: Growing & Using Them Today. Tucson: Tierra del Sol Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-9758554-2-3.
  12. ^ a b "Plants of the Cahuilla Indians of the Colorado Desert and Surrounding Mountains". Enduring Knowledge Publications. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  13. ^ James, Harry (1985). Temalpakh: Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants. Malki Museum Press. ISBN 978-0-9390-4606-5.

External links[edit]