Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Fendlera rupicola, Cliff Fendlerbush

Cliff Fendlerbush is a species native to the southwestern United States. Flowers are white, showy and fragrant. Flowers are mostly solitary although some are in clusters of 2 or 3 on terminal end of branches. Fendlera rupicola Cliff Fendlerbush is a species within the Hydrangea family, a family known for showy plants and often cultivated and recognized for beautiful flowers. Plants from March to June. Fendlera rupicola Cliff Fendlerbush is a showy plant that grows upwards of 6 feet (2 m).  Cliff Fendlerbush, also known as False Mock-orange, is a straggling shrub, widely branch with reddish-brown bark becoming gray and shreddy with age. Fendlera rupicola Cliff Fendlerbush prefers dry rocky and gravelly slopes. Cliff Fendlerbush is an important plant in the southwestern United States. It is valuable as food to deer and bighorn sheep and to livestock, including goats, when other food is scarce. Fendlera rupicola

Scientific Name: Fendlera rupicola
Common Name: Cliff Fendlerbush

Also Called: False Mock-orange, Fendlera, Fendler Bush, Fendlerbush

Family: Hydrangeaceae, Hydrangea Family

Synonyms: (Fendlera falcata, Fendlera rupicola var. rupicola, Fendlera rupicola var. falcata)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: 3 to 6 (9) feet (1 to 2 (3) m)

Growth Form: Shrub; straggling, usually 1 to 2 (3) m. high, widely branched, bark reddish becoming gray and shreddy with age.

Leaves: Green, deciduous, sparsely pubescent to glabrate on both surfaces, linear-lanceolate to narrowly ovate, margins entire often revolute, mostly sessile.

Flower Color: White, showy, fragrant, mostly solitary, some in clusters of 2 or 3 on terminal end of branches, petals also white, may be tinged with purple, fruit a 4-celled capsule.

Flowering Season: March to June

Elevation: 3,000 to 7,000 feet (914 to 2,133 m)

Habitat Preferences: Dry rocky and gravelly slopes.

Recorded Range: Cliff Fendlerbush is found in the southwestern United States in AZ, CO, NM, NV and TX. It is also native to northern Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Fendlera rupicola.

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

Genus Information: In North America there are 3 species for genus Fendlera. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 5 accepted species names and a further 4 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 2 species of genus Fendlera, California has 0 species, Colorado has 2 species, Nevada has 1 species, New Mexico has 2 species, Texas has 3 species, Utah has 1 species. All data approximate and subject revision.

There is 1 variety in Fendlera rupicola;
Fendlera rupicola var. falcata, (AZ, CO, NM, NV and TX);

Comments: Cliff Fendlerbush is an important plant in the southwestern United States. It is valuable as food to deer and bighorn sheep and also to livestock, including goats, when other food is scarce. When in bloom, the plant is showy and is able to withstand intense hear and considerable drought. This plant is regularly recommended for cultivation as an ornamental shrub.

Cliff Fendlerbush prefers desert shrub, pinyon-juniper/mountain shrub and blue grama grass vegetative communities.

The U. S. Forest Service has an excellent site with detailed information about Cliff Fendlerbush on-line at: Fire Effects Information System (FEIS).

The genus "Fendler" is in honor of Augustus Fendler (1813-1883) a German plant collector and early botanical explorer of southwestern United State. Mr. Fendler collected plants in North and South America and also worked for Asa Gray and George Engelmann.

The species epithet "rupicola" is from Latin translations meaning living or growing on rocky slopes or "rock-inhabiting", referencing the species preference for rocky habitats.

Fendlera rupicola, has been used for a wide and diverse purposes by Arizona and New Mexico state indigenous peoples.

  • Havasupai Other, Hunting & Fishing Item. Wood used to make arrow foreshafts.
  • Hopi Other, Ceremonial Items. Used in religious ceremonies.
  • Navajo Drug, Gastrointestinal Aid. Infusion of inner bark taken for swallowed ants.
  • Navajo Other, Ceremonial Items. Notched stick rubbed with a smooth stick instead of beating a drum in the Mountain Chant Ceremony.
  • Navajo Other, Ceremonial Items. Used by the Home God in the Mountain Chant Ceremony.
  • Navajo Other, Hunting & Fishing Item. Wood used to make arrow shafts.
  • Navajo Other, Insecticide. Plant used to kill hair lice.
  • Navajo Other, Tools. Wood used to make weaving forks, planting sticks and knitting needles.
  • Navajo, Kayenta Drug, Cathartic. Plant used as a cathartic.
  • Navajo, Kayenta Drug, Ceremonial Medicine. Plant used for Plumeway, Nightway, Male Shootingway and Windway ceremonies.
  • Navajo, Kayenta Other, Ceremonial Items. Boiled with juniper berries, pinon buds and corn meal and used in mush-eating ceremonies.

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

    Date Profile Completed: 08/12/2019
    Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, Arizona Flora, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 08/10/2019)
    Tesky, Julie L. 1993. Fendlera rupicola. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [2019, August 10].
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 08/10/2019).
    Martin and Hutchins 1980, Allred and Ivey 2012, Carter 2012, Heil et al. 2013; S. Buckley 2010, F. S. Coburn 2015, A. Hazelton 2017
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet (accessed 08/10/2019). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    Craig C. Freeman, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 12 | Hydrangeaceae | 2. Fendlera rupicola Engelmann & A. Gray, Smithsonian Contr. Knowl. 3(5): 77, plate 5. 1852.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information, (accessed 08/10/2019).