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Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Shrubs Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
Creosote bush habitat
Typical habitat. Looking out across the landscape, all you can see it the tops of creosote bushes.

General: Creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) is one of the signature plants of the southwestern deserts. Creosote bush is the dominant species in the Lower Sonoran (Creosote-Bursage Flats) life zone, a major component of the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub) life zone, and fades out at the bottom of the Upper Sonoran (Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) life zone.

Family: Caltrop (Zygophyllaceae).

Other Names: Creosotebush, little stinker.

Creosote bush
Typical 5-6 foot tall creosote bush. Notice the many open, airy, crooked branches.

Plant Form: Evergreen shrub with many branches emerging from the ground and radiating up and outward. The plant can drop some or most of the leaves during drought.

Height: Height depends on precipitation. Typical plants get to 5-6 feet tall. In dry areas such as the west side of the Sheep Range (rain shadow of the Spring Mountains), plants rarely exceed about 3 feet. In well-watered areas, plants can exceed 10 feet.

Stems: Generally crooked and divided; young stems are banded.

Creosote bush
Creosote bush flowers and buds

Leaves: Small (less than 0.5 inches), waxy, and resinous. Two leaflets are joined at the base. The leaf color depends on season (water): leaves are dark green to yellowish green during spring when water is available, but they turn brown during summer or when water is not available.

Flowers: Petals 5, solitary, about 1-inch across at most, and yellow. The plant blooms when water is available, usually in the spring after winter rains and during summer after thunderstorms.

Creosote bush
Fuzzy white seed capsules

Seeds: Round, fuzzy, white capsule about 0.25 inches in diameter.

Elevation: Up to about 4,500 ft.

Comments: Creosote bushes are thought to include the oldest individual plants on earth. This species grows from seeds and by cloning, and some clones in southern California have been carbon dated to about 11,000 year old.

This species gives the desert a characteristic musky odor after summer rains. After summer thunderstorms (localized, heavy rain storms), you can see patches or bands of bright green creosote bush stretching out across the landscape where it rained, while the surrounding landscape remains brown.

Anna's Hummingbirds sometimes feed on the yellow flowers.

Croesote bush (Larre tridentata) Croesote bush (Larre tridentata)
Croesote bush (Larre tridentata) Croesote bush (Larre tridentata)
Croesote bush (Larre tridentata) Creosote Bush (Larre tridentata)
Creosote Bush (Larre tridentata) Creosote Bush (Larre tridentata)
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
During extreme drought, plants die back, then sprout from the roots
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
During extreme drought, plants die back, then sprout from the roots
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Small, spindly creosote bush
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Small, spindly creosote bush
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Creosote Bush seeds on the ground
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Creosote Bush seeds on the ground
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Creosote Bush seeds on the ground
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Creosote Bush seeds on the ground
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Creosote Bush seeds on the ground
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Rodents use the mound of sand that collects under the shrubs
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Kangaroo Rats burrows in the sand mound under a shrub
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Kangaroo Rats burrows in the sand mound under a shrub
Creosote Gall Midge (Asphondylia auripila)
Stem gall produced by a Creosote Gall Midge
White Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla gloriosa)
White Velvet Ants hide in the desert by mimicking creosote seeds
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Leaf-cutter bee working on a flower
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Leaf-cutter bee working on a flower
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Spider with legs folded in -- hiding by not looking like a spider?
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Spider with legs folded in -- hiding by not looking like a spider?
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Inchworm on creosote bush
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)
Inchworm on creosote bush
Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata)

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
copyright; Last updated 150409

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