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Shrubs:

Definitions:

Shrub: A woody plant that has several stems and is smaller than most trees.

Tree: A long-lived woody plant that has a single, usually tall main stem with few or no branches on its lower half.

Hybrid Shrub: A shrub whose offspring is a result of the crossing of two different species of shrubs.

Ornamental Shrub: A shrub grown specifically for decorative purposes.

Native: A plant that originates from this place.

Non-Native: A plant that originates from somewhere else, but was introduced to this place.

Invasive: A non-native plant that outcompetes native plants and has a negative ecological effect on the environment.

*Classification Definitions from: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Key:
ID Characteristics
Funky Facts!
References/More Information 
 

native shrubs

Rubber Rabbitbrush

(Chrysothamnus nauseosus):

Gray/green alternate leaves covered in tiny hairs. Shrubs usually stand from 2-5 feet tall, and have an overall rounded shape. Bright yellow tubular flowers arranged in bundles at end of branches in fives. Late flowering from August-October.

  • Scientific Name Meaning: Chrysos = gold and thamnos = shrub. Nauseosus = nauseating (because of its heavy scent). 

  • Important forage crop for native animals.

  • Important plant for pollinators as it flowers later in the summer giving pollinators a pollen source when many other flowers have already died back. 

  • During WWII, this plant was studied as a substitute for commercial rubber. Even though Rubber Rabbitbrush produces high quality rubber, it was not economical since such small amounts of rubber are procured from each plant. 


“Shrubs of the Great Basin, A Natural History” by Hugh N. Monzingo. 

USDA Forest Service Plant of the Week: Rubber Rabbitbrush.

Desert Peach

(Prunus andersonii):

Small, pointed, alternate leaves that are often bundled. Spines occur on the ends of branches. Pink flowers bloom from March-May and produce small peach-like fruit. Native plant in rose family.

  • Scientific Name Meaning: Prunus = plumb and andersonii = named after an early Nevada botanist named Charles Anderson.

  • Stratification needed for seeds to germinate (need exposure to cold for around 4 weeks prior to sprouting).

  • Flowers are open pollinated by insects.

  • Seeds of the fruit are heart-shaped (as is the fruit) and the fruit has been considered a delicious delicacy.

  • The leaves can be used to obtain a green dye.

“Shrubs of the Great Basin, A Natural History” by Hugh N. Monzingo. 

Plants for a Future; Prunus andersonii - A.Gray.

Truckee River Guide: Desert Peach.

 
 

Scouler’s Willow (Salix scouleriana):

Scouler’s willow is generally considered a shrub, growing from 6-35 feet in height, but is also found as a tree up to 65 feet in height. It’s stems and branches tend to be slender and it’s bark smooth (in some cases flaky). The leaves are smooth (free from hair) and oblong with the pointed end at the base of the leaf. Stripped bark can have a skunky odor. Scouler’s willow are found in stony and silty soils and tolerates moderately to well-drained soils. It prefers full sun.

  • Scouler’s willow is the most common upland willow in the range. 

  • Insects (more importantly bees) are important pollinators for this plant.

  • It is dioecious (meaning two houses in latin) where the male and female reproductive structures are on separate plants.

  • Scouler’s willow protects the soil from erosion and can help return burned areas to forest cover.

US Forest Service: Salix scouleriana 

iNaturalist: Scouler's Willow

Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium):

Oregon Grape is a vertical shrub with 5 to 11 spiky edged leaflets. Oregon Grape has yellow flowers that form in clusters and bloom in April. They produce blue to purple berries.

  • Oregon grape is native to North America and can grow up to 10ft tall.

  • Their berries are edible and can be used in jellies or fermented to make wine.

  • Oregon grape has many medicinal qualities including the treatment of eczema and psoriasis as well as fighting both internal and external bacterial infections. 

  • The water from boiled barked can be used to treat sores in the mouth or on the skin. 

  • The roots are known to stimulate liver function, improve the flow of bile, and can be used to cleanse blood.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Mahonia aquifolium 

Wikipedia: Mahonia aquifolium 

Bioweb: Oregon Grape

 
 

Nevada Ephedra (Ephedra nevadensis):

Shrubs with broomlike, pale green stems. The reduced opposite leaves are scale-like (aka bracts) and often go unnoticed. The three-quarter inch seed cones occur at the nodes (where the leaf bract meets the stem) ranging from one to several.

  • The medicinal effects of Ephedra have been known since ancient China. It was used to heal respiratory ailments. 

  • The stems have been used in the West to brew a soothing medicinal tea. 

  • Nevada Ephedra is a major source of forage for native species including the Desert Bighorn Sheep, pronghorns, and mule deer.  

  • Among the Zuni peoples, a tea was created from the whole plant (minus the roots) as a treatment for syphilis.

Wild Plants of the Sierra Nevada by Ray S. Vizgirdas and Edna M. Rey-Vizgirdas 

Jepson Manual 


Great Basin Seed: Nevada Ephedra

 

Mountain Mahogany

(Cercocarpus betuloides):

Evergreen shrub to small tree. Leaves appear in clusters along the stem, flowers are not showy but fruits are long and feathery, covered with small shiny hairs.

  • These shrubs glisten in the sunlight because of their silvery fruits known as achenes. 

  • Despite their common name, these shrubs are not related to true mahogany, which is a valuable wood of the tropics. 

  • Mountain mahogany is a valuable resource for Native Americans. The wood was used to make spears, digging sticks and arrow shafts, and the bark and roots were used to make a red-purple dye. 

  • The bark was used to make a medicinal tea to treat colds, and the sap was dried, pulverized, and used as a topical treatment for earaches.

Wild Plants of the Sierra Nevada by Ray S. Vizgirdas and Edna M. Rey-Vizgirdas 

Jepson Manual

 

Narrowleaf Willow (Salix exigua):

Narrowleaf Willow is a shrub-tree that grows up to 33ft tall. The leaves are flat, linear, and silky green. The flowers, called catkins, are green and look like a fluffy spike.

  • Willows are rhizomatous, meaning they can grow new shoots from their roots, enabling them to resprout quickly.

  • They flower from March to May and grow along rivers, marshes, and ditches. 

  • Willows are an important food source for many species, such as mule deer, waterfowl, and beavers. 

  • The stems are flexible and are used to make baskets, scoops, and fish traps. 

  • Willows produce salicin, a chemical which acts similarly to aspirin.

  • The medicinal properties alleviate toothaches, stomach aches, sore throats, and help the healing process of wounds.

Flora of North America: Salix exigua 

Narrowleaf Willow: iNaturalist

Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata):

A very prolific shrub in Nevada. The shrub has a woody stock with simple leaves. The leaves are silvery blue-grey and have a tri-lobe structure on the end of each leaf. This plant is aromatic due to the oils produced by the plant. The plant prefers dry and rocky soils with full sun. Sagebrush is very drought tolerant, meaning this shrub has adapted to survive long periods with very little water.

  • Sagebrush is Nevada’s state flower.

  • Medicinally used as a tea for nasal congestion or as a cold remedy for coughs, headaches, stomach aches, and reduction of fevers. 

  • The sage grouse depends exclusively on sagebrush for shelter and food.

  • Sagebrush has no relation to sage. It is instead part of the sunflower family. 

  • Sagebrush is Monoecious (latin for one house) which means both male and female reproductive structures exist on one plant.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Artemisia tridentata 

Forest Service: Fire Effects Information System, Artemisia 

USDA plant database: Artemisia tridentata

 
 

Wild Rose (Rosa woodsii):

Wild roses come in a variety of colors and sizes. These shrubs are generally around 2-6ft tall and bloom from May until August. Once the flowers are pollinated, they produce red fruit called “hips” that last through the winter.

  • Rose hips are rich in vitamins, especially vitamin c, and can be used to make tea and jellies. They are also a favorite good for the northern mockingbird. 

  • Rose hips contain small abrasive hairs that should be removed prior to using in recipes. 

  • Rose is astringent, and can be used to tighten and tone the skin, which is why rose water is often sold as toners in stores.

Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project: Wild Rose

Traditional Roots: Medicine of Wild Rose (contains a variety of recipes to check out as well!)

 

Pinemat Manzanita

(Arctostaphylos nevadensis):

It is easy to spot this species due to its smooth reddish bark found on mature branches. It is generally less than three feet tall. Pinemat Manzanita’s leaves are also small, usually about one inch long and a half an inch wide, dark green in color, and with minute hairs. Urn shaped flowers can be found from May-July. 

  • Manzanita shrubs are cold to the touch! These shrubs feel cold due to the water flowing through the bark close to the surface. This makes them easy to identify, and easy to enjoy leaning up against on a warm day. 

  • These shrubs are excellent at preventing erosion! For this reason, many chose to plant them along roads and trails. 

  • To ensure seed dispersal, this shrub relies on bees to shake inside their flowers and release pollen! This is easy for bees, they are expert dancers watch here!

  • Occasional fires also improve seed germination, while freezing temperatures and snow have been found to protect dormant buds.

USDA Plant Guide: Pinemat Manzanita

Smithsonian Channel YouTube Video: “What's the Waggle Dance? And Why Do Honey Bees Do It?”

 

Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata):

The leaves of this shrub are green with small hairs, the hairs give them a dusty appearance. It is medium in size only growing to 8 feet in height. They have yellow flowers that resemble tiny wild roses and are very fragrant!

  • Native Americans have utilized bitterbrush to make a purple dye from its seeds, as well as moccasins and diapers from its wood. 

  • This shrub is vital to many fauna, for this reason it is often referred to as antelope bitterbrush. It is especially important as it produces food in the winter when many animals are food insecure. 

  • Bitterbrush’s leaves are water-loss resistant, making it perfectly capable to thrive in desert landscapes. Often it is used for rangeland restoration in Nevada. 

  • “Tridentata” in the shrubs scientific name, refers to the three-toothed leaves.

  • The shrub can sprout roots out of its branches when they reach the ground allowing it to expand in size. 

 

US Forest Service Plant of the Week: Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata (Pursh) DC.)   

US Forest Service Wildflowers: Bitterbrush 

 

Snowbrush/ Tobacco Brush

(Ceanothus velutinus):

This shrub grows to about 9 feet tall. It enjoys full sun and therefore its branches often sprawl as it searches for the sun’s rays. Its leaves are noticeably shiny and sticky, and evergreen. The flowers of the Snowbrush are a white and grow in bundles. 

  • This shrub is nitrogen fixing! This means it not only enjoys consuming the nutrients in its surrounding soil (as all plants do) but it also sends nitrogen back into the soil. This means plants growing near the snowbrush benefit greatly! For this reason, they are a favorite for restoration - especially in dry areas (where this plant thrives).

  • The seeds of this plant stay good for centuries! Many seeds go bad after a year or two and deteriorate back into the soil. The snowbrush, however, is able to germinate even after sitting in the soil for over one hundred years! They drop their seeds between June and August.

  • Snowbrush has the ability to help dry skin - such as dandruff and diaper rash. Native Americans have utilized these powers.

 

Native Plants PNW Snowbrush, Ceanothus velutinus

 

Black Hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii):

This deciduous shrub has egg shaped leaves. It grows to 30 feet tall and its fruit is a black or purple and apple-like, about ¼ inch in diameter. The bark is a thin darkish brown. 

  • This tree is a member of the rose family and is a small tree, growing between 6 and 30 feet. 

  • The Black Hawthorn’s fruits are not beloved by all birds, therefore they tend to remain intact longer than usual. Additionally, their thorny branches keep birds and other animals away. However, they are an especially important species to native bees! Their flowers are especially sweet and serve as a main food source for many bees. 

  • This tree ranges from Southeast Alaska to central Nevada!

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Crataegus douglasii

 
 

non-native shrubs

St. John’s Wort has upright branches of red to purple and grows in mounds to around 3 feet tall. They are deciduous shrubs so they lose their leaves in the winter. Bright five petaled yellow flowers with yellow stamens occur both in clusters and singularly and bloom June-August. Crushing the flowers will produce a red dye that will stain your fingers blueish purple.

  • St. John’s Wort received its name from its habit of  blooming around St. John’s Day, or around the summer solstice during the end of June.

  • During the middle ages, St. John's Wort was used extensively for the treatment of wounds, kidney troubles, nervous disorders, and for things like insanity as it was believed to be imbued with magical properties. During this time it was also seen as a symbol of protection for driving away evil spirits.

  • In England’s pre-Christian cultures, St. John's Wort had uses in divination about longevity and matrimony. There are rhymes, as illustrated below, that tell of maids picking these flowers and, if still radiant the morning after the picking, they would have a good chance of a happy marriage. Wilted flowers did not bode well.

    • “The young maid stole through the cottage door, And blushed as she sought the plant of power. ‘Thou silver glow-worm, oh! lend me thy light, I must gather the mystic St. John’s Wort to-night; The wonderful herb whose leaf will decide If the coming year shall see me a bride”[Dr. Hobbs].

  • Today, research is showing that St. John's Wort is comparable to many anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicine on the market for treatment of mild to moderate cases of depression and anxiety.

  • St. John's Wort is toxic to cattle and sheep as it causes photosensitivity (increases likelihood of sunburn) in these animals.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: St. John’s Wort.

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: History of St. Johns wort.

Dr. Christopher Hobbs: St. John’s Wort: Ancient Herbal Protector.

“Botany in a Day” by Thomas J. Elpel (pg. 74).

Saint John's Wort (Hypericum prolificum):

Forsythia (Forsythia × intermedia):

There are 11 different species of Forsythia with Forsythia × intermedia being one of the most common hybrids used in parks and gardens. In early spring, Forsythia will be covered in bright yellow flowers before the leaves appear. Forsythias have upright and arching branches with alternating leaves. The leaves turn yellow or purplish before falling in the autumn. Forsythias are in the Olive Family along with Lilacs and Ash trees.

  • Forsythia shrubs were named after the founder of The Horticultural Society of London, William Forsyth (1737-1804).

  • In China, this shrub is known as lianqiao (lian meaning lotus and qiao meaning to lift up).

  • Forsythia (mainly the suspensa variety) has been used over the centuries in Chinese herbalism to treat many different diseases thought to be caused by an excess of heat in the body.

  • Today Forsythia is thought to possibly relieve inflammation in the lungs, and has been given intravenously for treatment of bronchiolitis.

  • A stick from the Forsythia bush is used as a bow in the traditional Korean instrument called Ajaeng.

Different varieties of Forsythia: Harvard Arboretum, “The Story of Forsythia.

New World Encyclopedia, “Forsythia.

Institute for Traditional Medicine: Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., “Lonicera and Forsythia.

WebMD: “Forsythia.

 
 
 

local Resources

Check out these organizations to learn more about shrubs in our area!
  • Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation Facebook
  • Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation Twitter
  • Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation Instagram
  • Truckee Meadows Parks FoundationLinkedIn
  • Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation Youtube

Protecting & enhancing our community through public engagement, education, and the sustainability of our parks, open spaces, and trails.

 

50 Cowan Drive, Reno, NV 89509 | (775) 410-1702 

info@tmparksfoundation.org