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Botany Photo of the Day
In science, beauty. In beauty, science. Daily.

Ericameria nauseosa

Ericameria nauseosa
Ericameria nauseosa

Updated February 24, 2006 at 2:17pm PST: Changed name from Chrysothamnus nauseosus to Ericameria nauseosa after reviewing Nesom, G and Baird, G. 1993. Completion of Ericameria (Asteraceae: Astereae), Diminution of Chrysothamnus. Phytologia. 75(1): 74-93. – Daniel

First of all, welcome to new readers who are discovering Botany Photo of the Day via their local public library! One of the providers of “information portals” to public libraries has selected Botany Photo of the Day as a “hot link”, so there's been a boost in new visitors from libraries across North America.

On to the plant: common rabbit-brush is distributed throughout western North America. It's a shrubby, wood-forming member of the aster (or sunflower) family, yet another display of the diversity of form and structure within this family (for more on that topic, see the entry on Raoulia australis). Perhaps not surprising, considering that the Asteraceae contain over 10% of the dicotyledonous plant species in the world.

Ethnobotanically, I note that it has been used to treat sore throats, colds and coughs. Also mentioned in that link is that it was used as chewing gum, which I'll try next time I encounter it. I have already tried another historic chewing gum, pine resin - I doubt that this could be worse.

I should mention for the sake of being complete that some taxonomists have placed this species in the genus Ericameria instead of Chrysothamnus, so after I review some of the literature, I may have to change the name of this entry.

Astute observers will note that tonal differences between the two photographs. The colour difference is attributable to one photograph being taken in direct sunlight, the other when a cloud passed by overhead.

Lastly, there will be a couple BPotD announcements in the next two weeks, at least one of which will be a “goodie” that some readers will be able to take advantage of.

Nature / Photography resource link: Photographs tagged with “Burns Bog” via Flickr seems an appropriate link given that I mentioned the fire two days ago. The still-burning fires are front page news locally and have made the national news.

10 Comments

From whence the "nauseosus"?

I was hoping you'd explain the "nauseosus" part - sounds like it might be interesting.

The epithet nauseolus refers to the aroma of the foliage, which is mildly unpleasant when sniffed up close. Roy Lancaster, a renowned English plantsman who was visiting the Botanical Garden earlier this year collected a bit of this species on his way through the southern Interior. It was not in flower at that time and he did not have a field guide, so he left it in a bag on my desk for me to identify. It was a warm day, and after a few hours the smell in my office was, well, nauseating. Needless to say, I had no trouble with the identification.

I've read two different explanations for nauseosus: one is the “smell of the plant, which is sweet and cloying, but not nauseating” via the book Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia; the other is “Nauseosus refers to the disagreeable flavor of the herbage”. I'll investigate more fully next time I encounter it, but maybe someone else who has it growing locally (or experienced it) can comment on the smell (please don't ingest any plants if you are not absolutely certain you have it identified correctly and are similarly certain it won't make you sick).

Thanks Douglas, you hit the post button a few seconds before me!

In Georgia this is called Rabbit Tobacco.

My brother loves yellow flowers. He once had only yellow blooms around his house. I don't think he has heard of these, otherwise, He would have had them.

I've tried this as a tea for a sore throat. It was effective, and not too unpleasant in taste. It is one of my favorite things about fall in Santa Fe. The beautiful golden yellow goes so well with the soft whitish green of the stems and leaves. I've never found the scent to be nauseating and used it often in bouquets when I lived there. Its lovely in the landscape wherever it can be grown well.

Rabbit bush is a great favorite with many butterflies in late summer. I would love to find a source for plants or seeds.

A Washington source is Derby Canyon Natives. He calls this shrub gray rabbitbrush

http://www.derbycanyonnatives.com/shrubs.html

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