• Scientific name: Encelia farinosa
  • Desert Shrub
  • Member of the Sunflower Family
  • Grows 2-5 ft tall

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Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) is a member of the sunflower family growing 2-5 feet high. It is a medium sized rounded desert shrub common from northwestern Mexico, through California and the southwestern United States. It’s name comes from the brittleness of it’s stems. It has long, oval, silver-gray leaves that are somewhat fuzzy. The branches are brittle and woody, and contain a fragrant resin. It grows on gravely slopes and sand washes up to about 3,000 feet in elevation. Life span is estimated to be less than 20 years.

Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) are frost sensitive, therefore it is found in areas protected from the cold. Rocky hillsides, dry slopes and washes. It is found throughout the Sonoran Desert and in the warmer areas of the Mojave Desert. It also can be found growing in the coastal chaparral and interior valleys of southern California.

In the late winter Brittlebush has many bright yellow flowers per bush and an grow up to three feet tall. The flowers and stems have a resin that has been used for medicinal purposes and everything from chewing gum to glue. The stems are rumored to have been used by cowboys as a toothbrush

The hairs on the brittlebush plant serve several purposes. Many desert plants have hairy leaves or stems. The hairs act like a blanket over the leaves to protect them from the heat and cold. The white color reflects the sunlight helping to keep the plant cool. They also help trap any moisture and reduce the amount of water lost.

***Click on the “Quick Plant Facts” tab above for more information.

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(Encelia farinosa)

Brittlebush NRCS Plant Guide and Fact Sheet

PDF version of NRCS Plant Guide & Fact Sheet

Citation: Wolf, M. 2016. USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tucson Plant Materials Center. Tucson, AZ 85705.

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Helpful Links

Additional information about this product can be found on the academic websites linked below.


Many plants have more than one common and scientific name. We've listed a few of them below.

  • Brittlebush
  • Encelia farinosa
  • Brittlebrush
  • Incienso

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