Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Baccharis sarothroides, Desertbroom

The fruits of Desertbroom are small achenes that attach to long feathery white bristles which float through the air in very early spring. Baccharis sarothroides Desertbroom is a fall bloomer that flowers from September to February and begins to spread its seeds in early spring. Baccharis sarothroides Desertbroom is a shrub with multiple green stems with multiple broom-like branches and spindly in appearance. It is glabrous and resinous and soon becomes woody. Baccharis sarothroides Desertbroom or Broom Baccharis is happy in lower deserts in gravel and sandy washes or along roadsides. Here it begins to disperse its feather white bristles floating through the air. This specimen was growing tall in a semi-riparian area. Baccharis sarothroides

Scientific Name: Baccharis sarothroides
Common Name: Desertbroom

Also Called: Broom Baccharis, Desert Broom, Greasewood, Groundsel, Rosin Bush; (Spanish: Romerillo, Hierba del Pasmo, Escoba Amarga).

Family: Asteraceae, Sunflower Family

Synonyms: (Baccharis arizonica)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: Up to 12 feet (3.6 m)

Growth Form: Shrub; spreading whoody shrub; multiple green stems with parallel, longitudinal line or furrows (striate); branches broom-like and spindly; stems without hairs (glabrous) and with sticky sap (resinous along the primarily leafless green stems.

Leaves: Small bright green; alternate along stems; quickly deciduous and often leafless at flowering; leaf blades linear-oblanceolate, leaves without stems or other supporting stalks (sessile); leaf edges or margins not divided, smooth (entire), often rolled under (revolute).

Flower Color: Green, tiny; separate male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers in dense panicles; disk florets only; fruit is a cypsela attached to long feathery whitish bristles which float through the air.

Flowering Season: August, October, November often through February

Elevation: 1,000 to 5,500 feet (300-1,700 m)

Habitat Preferences: Mostly lower deserts, gravel dry and sandy washes, railroads, roadsides, flooded-areas, disturbed areas; saline soil and chaparral vegetation.

Recorded Range: In the Sonoran Desert in the southern southwest states of AZ, CA, AZ, NM, NV and TX, Baja California and northwest Mexico. Throughout most of Arizona. It is also native to Baja California, Baja California Sur and northwestern Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Baccharis sarothroides.

North America species range map for Baccharis sarothroides:
North American range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation

North America species range map for Baccharis sarothroides: Click image for full size map
Click image for full size map

U.S. Weed Information: Unknown
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Unknown

Wetland Indicator: In North America Baccharis sarothroides has the following wetland designations: Arid West, FACU; Great Plains, FAC; Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast, FACU.
FACU = Facultative Upland, usually occur in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands
FAC = Facultative, occur in wetlands and non-wetlands

Threatened/Endangered Information: Unknown

Genus Information: In North America there are 24 species and 26 accepted taxa overall for Baccharis. World wide, The Plant List includes 430 accepted species names and includes a further 409 scientific plant names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona and California each have 10 species of Baccharis, Nevada has 5 species, New Mexico has 13 species, Texas has 12 species, Utah has 5 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: As the vernacular name suggests Desertbroom, with its nearly leafless green stems, indeed has a broom-like profile. The many branches grow erect-ascending. The plant blooms profusely in the fall through early spring and at that time you might see the fine white feathery wind carried "parachutes" blowing freely in the air or covering the ground and the plant like a light snowfall dusting.

The type species (Eastwood 15832, 15833) for Desertbroom is from the Tonto Basin area, Gila County, Arizona

Also see in Southwest Desert Flora; Yerba de Pasmo Baccharis pteronioides and Seep Willow, Baccharis salicifolia.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Tiny wind-borne seeds of Baccharis sarothroides may possibly be eaten by birds and small mammals.

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects

The etymology of the genus Baccharis (Bac'charis:) is uncertain and possibly named after Bacchus (Dionysus), the Greek god of fertility, wine, revelry and sacred drama.

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

Baccharis sarothroides, Desertbroom has been used for several medicinal and other purposes by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.

  • Diegueno Drug, Cough Medicine and Gastrointestinal Aid. Infusion of plant taken for stomachaches and coughs.
  • Papago Food, Beverage, Seeds steeped and used as tea-like drinks for refreshment.
  • Papago Other, Hunting & Fishing Item and Weapon, Wood used to make stone-tipped hunting arrows and stone-tipped war arrows
  • Pima Fiber, Brushes & Brooms. Green stalks cut, tied together with strings and used as brooms and to make brooms.

  • See full species account from Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 8/5/2012; updated 05/06/2020
    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 05/04/2020) for Baccharis
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 05/04/2020).
    FNA 2006, Benson and Darrow 1981, Kearney and Peebles 1969; Editors: S. Buckley 2010, F. S. Coburn 2015, A. Hazelton 2015 from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; (accessed 05/08/2020).
    David Bogler 2012, Baccharis sarothroides, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, /eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=1611, accessed on May 08, 2020.
    Scott D. Sundberg†, David J. Bogler, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 20 | Asteraceae| Baccharis; 16. Baccharis sarothroides A. Gray, Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts. 17: 211. 1882; Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Baccharis sarothroides', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 December 2019, 22:05 UTC, [accessed 8 May 2020]
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
    Etymology: Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed 05/04/2020)