Plant of the day: chamise

Adenostoma fasciculatum

Chamise is a needle-leaved shrub of the chaparral. Right now it’s spikes of small white flowers are fading to brown, but the dried flowers will stay on the bush for most of the summer. A close look at those that are still blooming will show five little petals and the long splayed stamens. The flowers are so small that even when a bush is in full bloom it looks understated, not showy.

The small, leathery leaves of chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) are about a quarter of an inch long and grow in bunches off the stem. This is one of the most common chaparral plants, and its leaves secretes an oil that burns easily. Native tribes used the oil to treat skin infections (they also used an infusion of bark and leaves to treat syphilis, and collected scale insects from the plant to make a glue for arrows and baskets).

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