Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Gutierrezia sarothrae, Broom Snakeweed

Broom Snakeweed has bright golden yellow flowers that open on the tips of branches. The flower heads are small and narrow and may be sticky from the plants resin. The flower heads have both ray and disk flowers in clusters of 1 to 5. Gutierrezia sarothrae Broom Snakeweed flowers bloom in the late spring or fall-winter from July to September or November. The plants are sub-shrubs that are more or less rounded or mound-like and the stems are from a woody base. Gutierrezia sarothrae Broom Snakeweed is in the genus Gutierrezia named for Pedro Gutierrez (Rodriguez), name sometimes given as Pedro Gutierrez de Salceda, a 19th century Spanish nobleman, botanist and apothecary at the Madrid Botanical Garden called the Real Jardin Botanico founded by King Carlos III. Gutierrezia sarothrae Broom Snakeweed has green leaves, variable in shape from linear to lanceolate. The clustered leaves are thin, thread-like (filiform), and multiple leaves may originate from the same node (fascicled); many leaves are shed and absent at flowering. Gutierrezia sarothrae Broom Snakeweed flower from July to September or November and prefer elevations from
 3,000 to 8,000 feet (914-2,438 m). Gutierrezia sarothrae
Broom Snakeweed is known by a variety of local names such as Broomsnakeweed, Broomweed, Kindlingweed, Matchbrush, Matchweed, Perennial Snakeweed, Snakeweed, Stinkweed, Texas Snakeweed, Turpentine Weed, Yellow Top. Gutierrezia sarothrae Broom Snakeweed habitat preferences include: Mountain habitats, upper deserts, pinyon-juniper, grasslands, and wooded areas, in dry, arid areas, rocky hillsides and slopes, disturbed and open areas, overgrazed lands; limestone, caliche and calcareous soils. Gutierrezia sarothrae

Scientific Name: Gutierrezia sarothrae
Common Name: Broom Snakeweed

Also Called: Broomsnakeweed, Broomweed, Kindlingweed, Matchbrush, Matchweed, Perennial Snakeweed, Snakeweed, Stinkweed, Texas Snakeweed, Turpentine Weed, Yellow Top; (Spanish: Yerba de La Vibora, Hierba de La Víbora)

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Gutierrezia divaricata, Gutierrezia diversifolia, Gutierrezia lepidota, Gutierrezia linearifolia, Gutierrezia linearis, Gutierrezia linoides, Gutierrezia longipappa, Gutierrezia pomariensis, Gutierrezia sarothrae var. pomariensis, Gutierrezia tenuis, Solidago sarothrae, Xanthocephalum sarothrae, Xanthocephalum sarothrae var. pomariense, Xanthocephalum tenue)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial with a long woody taproot.

Size: 8 to 28 inches (20-70 cm) or taller, 3 feet (91 cm).

Growth Form: Subshrub; plants bushy, more or less rounded or mound-like, stems from a woody base, upright (erect) or spreading horizontally and upward (spreading); the stems are variable in texture but are generally green or yellow during the bloom, the stems may be smooth (glabrous), or have short stiff hairs (hispidulous) and may be sticky from resin; the stems becoming woody with age.

Leaves: Green; blades variable, linear to lanceolate, clustered leaves are thin, thread-like (filiform), and multiple leaves may originate from the same node (fascicled); many leaves shed and absent at flowering.

Flower Color: Bright golden yellow; abundant flowers in fall, flower heads small and narrow with sticky resin, flowering on tips (terminal) of branches in clusters of 1 to 5; (flat-topped panicles) both ray (2 or 3 to 8) and disk (2 or 3 to 9) florets; fruit is a cypsela

Flowering Season: July to September or November

Elevation: 3,000 to 8,000 feet (914-2,438 m)

Habitat Preferences: Mountain habitats, upper deserts, pinyon-juniper, grasslands and wooded areas, in dry, arid areas, rocky hillsides and slopes, disturbed and open areas, overgrazed lands; limestone, caliche and calcareous soils.

Recorded Range: Western United States and central Canada, Baja California and northern and central Mexico. Broom Snakeweed is well represented throughout the entire southwestern United States.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Gutierrezia sarothrae.

North America species range map for Broom Snakeweed, Gutierrezia sarothrae:
North American range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation

North America species range map for Broom Snakeweed, Gutierrezia sarothrae: Click image for full size map.
Click image for full size map

U.S. Weed Information: Gutierreza sarothrea is listed in:

  • Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains;
  • Weeds of the West.
  • Plants included here may become weedy or invasive.

    Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Unknown
    Wetland Indicator: Unknown
    Threatened/Endangered Information: Unknown

    Genus Information: In North America there are 10 species and 11 accepted taxa overall for Gutierrezia. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 33 accepted species names and a further 30 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

    The genus Gutierrezia was published in 1816 by Spanish botanist Mariano Lagasca y Segura, Director of the Real Jardin Botanico. Mariano Lagasca y Segura published the genus Gutierrezia in 1816.

    In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 6 species of Gutierrezia, California and Utah each have 3 species, Nevada has 2 species, New Mexico has 5 species and Texas has 4 species. Data approximate and subject to revision.

    Comments: Broom Snakeweed is a native plant that has adapted well to its arid and semi-arid conditions and habitats and is found in a wide variety of habitats identified above. It even thrives in poor soils such as salty soils such as saline soil, calcareous and alkaline soils.

    It is considered a weed by several authorities especially the livestock industry. It is said to be an "aggressive and obnoxious weed" in An Illustrated Guide to Arizona Weeds. It is more prevalent in poorly managed rangelands and its presence is an indication of overgrazing.

    According to Arizona Flora, Kearney and Peebles; Gutierrezia are “worthless plants” not even valuable for controlling soil erosion and they are “more or less poisonous to sheep and goats when eaten in quantity, but are unpalatable and are seldom grazed”. Apparently there is evidence that toxicity of Threadleaf Snakeweed increases if the plants are growing in sandy soils. Interesting to note below under Ethnobotany just how important these particular species are to the indigenous native peoples of the southwestern United States.

    Gutierrezia sarothrae is commonly confused with the similar looking Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus nauseosus, but it is distinguished by the presence of ray florets, which Rabbitbrush plants do not have.

    In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Threadleaf Snakeweed, Gutierrezia microcephala which may be found together in preferred habitat types and Late Snakeweed, Gutierrezia serotina, a smaller plant and other less noticeable key characteristics.

    Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
    Gutierrezia sarothrae may be of value for wildlife, mostly small mammals and birds for food, shelter and protection through cover. According to the U.S. Forest Service Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) it is utilized by pronghorn, mule deer, bighorn sheep and bison in some western localities under certain conditions. It is a major food source for the Black-tailed Jackrabbit in Kansas and New Mexico and it also provides benefits to other mammals and small birds. Kangaroo Rats and the Northern Grasshopper Mouse feed on the seeds as do the Lesser Prairie Chicken and Scaled Quail.

    For a comprehensive review of Gutierrezia sarothrae see the USFS Fire Effects Information System, also known as: FEIS.

    Broom Snakeweed provide cover and nesting material for many small birds and mammals such as Gambel's Quail, Scaled Quail and Black-tailed Jackrabbits. Burrowing Owls in the Columbia Basis choose Broom Snakeweed for nesting material.

    Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Bees and Insects
    Gutierrezia sarothrae brightly (colored flowers) and plants may be visited by butterflies, moths and other insects in search of food, nectar or cover.

    Etymology:
    The genus “Gutierrezia” (Gutierre'zia:) is named for Pedro Gutierrez (Rodriguez), name sometimes given as Pedro Gutierrez de Salceda, a 19th century Spanish nobleman, botanist and apothecary at the Madrid Botanical Garden called the Real Jardin Botanico founded by King Carlos III.

    The genus Gutierrezia was published in 1816 by Spanish botanist Mariano Lagasca y Segura, Director of the Real Jardin Botanico. Mariano Lagasca y Segura published the genus Gutierrezia in 1816.

    The species epithet sarothrae (sarothro'ides:) means broom-like.

    Ethnobotany
    Gutierrezia sarothrae is used for a multitude of purposes by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.
  • Blackfoot Drug, Herbal Steam and Respiratory Aid; Roots used in herbal steam for unspecified ailments and Roots placed in boiling water and steam inhaled for respiratory ailments.
  • Comanche Drug, Pulmonary Aid and Fiber, Brushes; Compound containing leaves used for whooping cough and Stems used to make brooms.
  • Dakota Drug, Veterinary Aid; Decoction of flowers given to horses as a laxative.
  • Diegueno Drug, Antidiarrheal; Decoction of fresh flowers or fresh roots taken for diarrhea.
  • Hopi Other, Ceremonial Items; Sprig attached to the paho (prayer emblem) and Sprigs tied on prayer sticks during the December ceremonies.
  • Isleta Drug, Dermatological Aid and Venereal Aid; Poultice of moistened leaves used for bruises and Infusion of leaves used for venereal diseases
  • Isleta Drug, Febrifuge and Soap; Infusion of leaves used as a bath for fevers and Infusion of leaves used as pleasant and refreshing bath.
  • Jemez Drug, Dermatological Aid and Gynecological Aid; Decoction of plant used for sores and Decoction of plant taken by women after childbirth following the cedar decoction.
  • Jemez Other, Insecticide; Plant chewed and juice spit upon bees to kill the insects and Plant placed upon a slow fire and smoke destroyed bees.
  • Keres, Western Drug, Antirheumatic (External); Strong, black infusion of crushed plant used as a rub for rheumatism.
  • Keres, Western Drug, Cathartic and Diaphoretic and Emetic; Infusion of plant used as a cathartic and Plant used as an ingredient in the sweatbath and Infusion of plant used as an emetic.
  • Keres, Western Drug, Eye Medicine and Snake Bite Remedy; Infusion of plant used as an eyewash and Chewed leaf juice taken for and rubbed on rattlesnake bites.
  • Keres, Western Drug, Veterinary Aid and Insecticide; Infusion of leaves used as a wash for horses after castration and Chewed leaf juice had an intoxicating effect upon bees.
  • Lakota Drug, Cold Remedy and Cough Medicine and Vertigo Medicine; Decoction of plant taken for colds and Decoction of plant taken for coughs and Decoction of plant taken for dizziness.
  • Navajo Drug, Analgesic and Dermatological Aids; Plant ashes rubbed on the body for headaches and Plant used for wounds and Poultice of chewed plant applied to ant, bee and wasp stings swellings.
  • Navajo Drug, Sedative, Snake Bite Remedy and Veterinary Aid; Plant used for 'nervousness' and Plant used for snakebites and Decoction of ground plant applied as poultice to sheep bitten by a snake.
  • Navajo Dye, Yellow Tops used to make a yellow dye.
  • Navajo Drug, Ceremonial Medicine; Wood made into charcoal used in the medicines applied to the ailing gods. Two kinds of charcoal were used in the medicines which were applied to the ailing gods. The first was made from the bark of the pine and willow. The second was made from this plant and three-lobed sagebrush, to which were added the feathers dropped from a live crow and a live buzzard.
  • Navajo Other, Ceremonial Items; Leaves, grama grass, sagebrush and unidentified leaves burned to charcoal for blackening ceremony.
  • Navajo Other, Ceremonial Items; Wood ash and pitch used to cover the oak bull-roarer for the Female Shooting Life Chant.
  • Navajo, Kayenta Other, Ceremonial Items; Plant placed on top of most ceremonial prayersticks and figurines.
  • Navajo, Kayenta Drug, Ceremonial Medicine; Plant used as a ceremonial fumigant ingredient.
  • Navajo Other, Tools; Stems used for whirls when making fire by friction.
  • Navajo, Kayenta Drug, Antidiarrheal and Disinfectant and Gastrointestinal Aid; Plant used for bloody diarrhea and Plant used as a ceremonial fumigant ingredient and Plant used for gastro-intestinal disease.
  • Navajo, Ramah Drug, Analgesic and Antidote; Decoction of root taken for painful urination and stomachache and Compound decoction of plant used as an antidote for taking too much medicine.

  • See complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 8/4/2012; updated 08/03/2020
    References:
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 08/01/2020)
    https://plants.usda.gov/java/stateSearch
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; http://www.theplantlist.org/ (accessed 08/01/2020).
    http://www.theplantlist.org/1.1/browse/A/Compositae/Gutierrezia/
    The Jepson Manual, Citation: http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/interchange/I_treat_indexes.html Sat Aug 4 09:54:19 2012
    Guy L. Nesom, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 20 | Asteraceae; Gutierrezia, 6. Gutierrezia sarothrae (Pursh) Britton & Rusby, Trans. New York Acad. Sci. 7: 10. 1887. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    Tirmenstein, D. 1999. Gutierrezia sarothrae. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
    https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/gutsar/all.html [2020, August 2].
    FNA 2006, Wiggins 1964, Benson and Darrow 1981, Heil et al 2013; Editors; S.Buckley 2010, F.S.Coburn 2015, A.Hazelton 2017 from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; (accessed 07/03/2020).
    http://swbiodiversity.org/seinet/taxa/index.php?taxon=3746&clid=4266
    David J. Keil & Meredith A. Lane 2012, Gutierrezia sarothrae, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=3149, accessed on August 02, 2020.
    1972, Kittie F. Parker, An Illustrated Guide to Arizona Weeds, page 292, The University of Arizona Press.
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet http://www.wildflower.org/plants/ (accessed 08/02/2020). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=GUSA2
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Gutierrezia sarothrae', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 April 2020, 17:55 UTC,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gutierrezia_sarothrae&oldid=952709552 [accessed 2 August 2020]
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Gutierrezia', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 January 2020, 13:11 UTC,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gutierrezia&oldid=934238168 [accessed 31 July 2020]
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
    http://swbiodiversity.org/seinet/
    Etymology: Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed 08/01/2020)
    http://www.calflora.net/botanicalnames/pageG.html
    http://www.calflora.net/botanicalnames/pageSA-SH.html