Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Encelia farinosa, Brittlebush

Brittlebush or White Brittlebush as it is also known as has beautiful showy yellow daisy-type flowers. The flower heads may be as large as 2 inches or more. Encelia farinosa Brittlebush blooms from February to May and again from August to September following sufficient monsoon rainfall. Encelia farinosa Brittlebush has smooth flowering stalks and narrowly lanceolate phyllaries as noted in this photo. Encelia farinosa Brittlebush is a native perennial found mostly in Arizona, California with smaller populations in Nevada and Utah. It is well represented in Baja California. Encelia farinosa Brittlebush is one of the most common yellow flowered silvery-gray bushes in lower deserts and a co-dominant species in many locations. In wet years these plants may color an entire hillside bright yellow. Encelia farinosa

Scientific Name: Encelia farinosa
Common Name: Brittlebush
Also Called: Goldenhills, Incienso, White Brittlebush (Spanish: Rama Blanca, Incienso, Hierba del Bazo, Hierba [rama] del Bazo, Hierba de Las Animas, Palo Blanco, Hierba Ceniza)
Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family
Synonyms: (Encelia farinosa var. radians, Encelia farinosa var. phenicodonta)
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: 1 to 3 feet or more tall and as wide.
Growth Form: Shrub or subshrub; rounded, multiple branching, brittle stems exude resin or gum, new stems tomentose, older stems with smooth bark.
Leaves: Whitish or silvery-gray, tomentose, shape variable, lanceolate to ovate, petioles, lower leaves deciduous.
Flower Color: Yellow, showy fragrant radiate heads up to 2 inches, flower head clusters on tips of stems extend well above the plant, ray flowers 10 to 20, disk flowers yellow, brown or purplish, long stem-like inflorescence with paniculiform or cymose arrays (most of branching occurs distally, peduncles, mostly glabrous, phyllaries lanceolate.
Flowering Season: February to May and again from August to September; or this species may bloom throughout the year following sufficient monsoon rainfall.
Elevation: Up to 3,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Lower deserts, often in association with Creosote Bush, dry rocky slopes and hillsides.

Recorded Range: Brittlebush is found in the southwestern United States, mostly in Arizona and California but also in Nevada and Utah and throughout Baja California and northwest Mexico. It has been introduced in Hawaii. In Arizona it is found primarily in the western ⅔ of the state and in Graham and Greenlee Counties to the east.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Encelia farinosa.

U.S. Weed Information: No data available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No data available.
Wetland Indicator: No data available.
Threatened/Endangered Information: No data available

Genus Information: In North America there are 8 species of Encelia. World wide, The Plant List includes 20 accepted species names and includes a further 29 infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona, Nevada and Utah each have 4 species of Encelia, California has 5 species, New Mexico has 2 species and Texas has 1 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: Brittlebush is one of the most common yellow flowered silvery-gray bushes in lower deserts. Brittlebush is aptly named as the branches are easily snapped off because of brittle stems. Brittlebush is known to hybridize with Geraea canescens.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see similar species: Button Brittlebush, Encelia frutescens, Virgin River Brittlebush, Encelia virginensis, Hairy Desertsunflower, Geraea canescens and Parish's Goldeneye, Bahiopsis parishii.

Ethno-Herbalist: Southern California Ethnobotany; Ethnobotany of Southern California Native Plants: Brittlebush, Encelia farinosa.

Native American Ethnobotany: Encelia farinosa has been used as a pain analgesic, food, candy, waterproofing and as a paint by southwestern American indigenous peoples.

  • Cahuilla Drug, Toothache Remedy; Decoction of blossoms, leaves and stems held in the mouth for toothaches.
  • Pima Drug, Analgesic; Poultice of plant applied for pain.
  • Papago Food, Candy; Gum secretions chewed by children.
  • Papago Other, Waterproofing Agent; Gumlike secretions formerly smeared on tall, slender water bottles.
  • Pima Other, Fuel; Resinous branches used to make quick fires.
  • Pima Other, Paint; Resin melted and used as a varnish.
  • See the full species account from Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 8/1/2012; Updated, 07/25/2015, updated 11/24/2016, updated 04/03/2017, updated format 10/10/2017
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database
    Integrated Taxonomic Information System, ITIS, Wed Aug 1 2012 07:43:32 MDT,
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles
    David J. Keil & Curtis Clark; 2017; Encelia farinosa, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on April 03, 2017.
    Curtis Clark, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 21, pp 119-122 | Asteraceae | Encelia, Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 03/25/2017).
    SEINet for synonyms, scientific names and recorded geographic locations,