Origin: Chaparral, Coastal
Scrub Communities Evergreen: yes
Height: 2 to 10 feet depending on species
Flower: Commonly blue or white, with the stem the same color as the flower. The flowers are tiny and produced in large, dense clusters
Bloomtime: January to June depending on species
Exposure: full sun
Drought Tolerant: yes
Irrigation: Low water needs; does not need water in summer
Alternate name: Soap bush
There are more kinds of Ceanothus in southern California than of any other native shrub; blue-flowered forms are often called California or Mountain Lilac. Of the many species found in our area, the Buckbrush is the most common. It is the celebrated star of chaparral, sometimes called buckbrush (deer love eating it of course). The early part of the season is dominated by the white-blooming ceanothus species. Ceanothus is abundant in areas following a fire. It is one of the most valuable browse plants for California’s wildlife. Birds and small mammals eat its seeds.
The flowers can be rubbed together with water to form a lather for hair and body wash. The flowers contain saponin which is what produces the suds. The Chumash also use the dried leaves of this plant as a herbal tea. Early pioneers used the plant as a substitute for black tea. Miwok tribes of California have made baskets from ceanothus branches. Ceanothus means “spiny plant” in Greek.