Rubber Rabbitbrush (Chamisa)
Ericameria nauseosa (Chrysothamnus nauseosus)
This is the primary source of golden-yellow in much of the west during the late summer and early fall. When it is not blooming many people mistake it for sagebrush, but once you take a good look at the flowers it is hard to make that mistake again.
USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-7, maybe higher. Similar width
Drought Tolerance: Very good
Soil: Best on well drained alkali soils, but flexible with other soils
Light: Full sun
Native Range: From North Dakota south to Texas and all points west.
Permaculture and Homesteading Uses
Yellow Die: A very warm yellow gold yarn can be made using Rabbitbrush.
Pioneer Plant: Rabbitbrush is an aggressive pioneer plant at home in rough and tumble roadside areas as well as any other disturbed area. If this does not grow in you area it is because your conditions are to nice for it or because it has never been tried. Use this plant in areas regions where it is already established because it will push out other pioneer plants in places it is not native to.
Soil Builder: When the leaves fall they build up in piles under the plant and enrich the soil. When the soil becomes sufficiently enriched Rabbitbrush will often dieback and give its position to more delicate and slower growing plants.
Late Honeybee Finisher: Rabbitbrush is one of the latest blooming plants available in its home range. The honey is said to be strong and an acquired taste, but most beekeepers have already harvested by the time it blooms so it usually gets left to the bees.
Nutrient accumulator: Since there are few roots near the surface there is an excellent chance Rabbitbrush is a top notch nutrient accumulator.
Flowers: Golden-yellow, late August through October
Leaves: Dusty gray or dusty green, narrow and long--resembling a rabbit's ear, deciduous to semi deciduous
Size: 1-8' tall
Roots: Deep with few feeder roots near the surface
Pests: Nothing serious known
Used as a medicinal tea, yellow die, chewing gum.
This is a tough plant for tough areas and so common it is nearly invisible to many people that pass it every day. This is surprising because as an ornamental it has drop dead color and needs very little maintenance. Rabbitbrush can be made into a high grade rubber, but it is not cost effective at this time.