a-plant-a-day-9

Antelope bitterbrush or Antelope bush: Purshia tridentata, Rosaceae (rose family)

This is another one of those ubiquitous, rugged nondescript plants that tends to dominate the landscape, and in doing so, just kind of melt into it unnoticed. It has a kind of scraggly, shaggy, un-uniform structure that reminded me of juniper—but while juniper had leaves throughout the winter, this one generally did not, except for a few green nubbins that were hard-pressed for a classifiable shape. So when the sparsely-petaled white flowers began to bloom prolifically, I put it on my list of plants to figure out. I thought it was desert almond for a while, because the flowers are near identical to an untrained eye. But the tree structure is so different, and the flowers began to grow these funny little horns from their centers. Turns out they are in the same family.

Antelope bush provides shelter for smaller critters and birds, and as a higher elevation plant, is a favorite green of larger game such as deer and elk. I don't think large game hang out in these parts, but pipes canyon is in the lower elevation range for antelope bush, which is most abundant between 4000 and 9000 feet. I haven't found any sound references concerning ethnobotany, but the USDA plant profile sheet lists a host of remedies that can be developed from antelope bush, ranging from laxatives to lungs; even as an expeditor in placenta expellation. I'll stop there.