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Larrea tridentata - (Sessé.&Moc. ex DC.)Coville.

Common Name Creosote Bush - Chaparral
Family Zygophyllaceae
USDA hardiness 7-10
Known Hazards Acute hepatitis associated with oral use. Contact dermatitis also reported. Not considered safe as a herbal remedy [301].
Habitats Desert areas[254].
Range South-western N. America.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Frost Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Larrea tridentata Creosote Bush - Chaparral

Larrea tridentata Creosote Bush - Chaparral


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Sometimes misspelt as Larrea tridendata

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Larrea tridentata is an evergreen Shrub growing to 4 m (13ft 1in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 8. It is in leaf all year. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


L. divaricata. L. mexicana. Larrea tridendata (incorrect)

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts:
Edible Uses: Condiment  Tea

The flower buds are pickled in vinegar and used as a caper substitute[183]. The stems and leaves are a tea substitute[183]. The twigs are chewed to alleviate thirst[2, 183]. A resin is obtained from the leaves and twigs, it delays or prevents oils and fats from becoming rancid[183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Expectorant  Odontalgic  Urinary

Creosote bush was widely used by various North American Indian tribes. A decoction of the leaves was used to treat diarrhoea and stomach troubles whilst the young twigs were used to treat toothache and a poultice of the leaves was used to treat chest complaints and as a wash for skin problems[254]. It continued to be widely used as a treatment for rheumatic disease, venereal infections, urinary infections and certain types of cancer, especially leukaemia until its sale was banned in North America due to concern over its potential toxic effect upon the liver[254]. There have been a number of cases of acute or sub-acute hepatitis attributed to the use of this herb and so its internal use is not recommended until further research has been carried out[254]. A tea made from the leaves is used as an expectorant and pulmonary antiseptic[213]. Some N. American Indian tribes heated the shoot tips of this plant and dripped the sap (probably the resin[K]) into tooth cavities to treat toothache[213].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Carbon Farming - Industrial Crop: hydrocarbon.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Dynamic accumulator  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Experimental Crop  Industrial Crop: Hydrocarbon  Management: Coppice

Requires a moderately fertile moisture-retentive soil in full sun or light shade[200]. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c[200]. The plant is resinous and aromatic[200]. Carbon Farming - Cultivation: experimental. Management: coppice.

Carbon Farming

  • Experimental Crop  Plant breeders are testing these plants to see if they could be domesticated for cultivation, but they are still in an experimental phase. Examples include milkweed and leafy spurge.
  • Industrial Crop: Hydrocarbon  Materials, chemicals and energy include bioplastics, rubber, biomass products gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, butane, propane, biogas. Plants are usually resprouting plants and saps.
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

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Plant Propagation

Seed - we have no information for this species but suggest sowing the seed in a greenhouse in spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of new growth in spring in a frame[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Range

NORTHERN AMERICA: United States (New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, California, Nevada (south), Utah (Washington Co.)), Mexico (Baja California (Norte), Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Coahuila de Zaragoza, Durango, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Hidalgo, Querétaro)

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(Sessé.&Moc. ex DC.)Coville.

Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

tyner white   Thu Nov 29 2007

To what is stated on this site about medicinal uses could be added that of (VERY MODERATE) smoking. I pursued an interest in learning about numerous herbs available at health food stores from this perspective, using an anti-overdose mini-toke utensil which I have been interested in introducing as an alternative to the pernicious 700-mg. hot-burning-overdose nicotine cigaret and other common smoking procedures, all overdose-oriented, probably for the sake of tobacco industry profits. The utensil has a quarter-inch (6 mm.) i.d. screened crater permitting 25-mg. servings at minimum temperature provided you (user) suck slowly enough. The herb must first be sifted through 1/16" wire mesh screen to achieve a particle size which burns smooth and slow in such a utensil. I found that Larrea mexicana, or an herb so advertised on the package, had a very rich, distinctive (though slightly scary) flavor and even, more than most I tried, left a specific feeling in the chest which I judged to indicate potential toxicity if I had overdosed on it, which of course the utensil expressly prevents. The degree to which the taste was intriguing and interesting indicated that its use in moderate quantities was or could be positive for the mental function, as often advocated in the case of such an herb as cannabis. This raises the issue of addressing the number one public health issue of our time, the profit-driven marketing of death to over 5 million victims a year world-wide (WHO est.) by the tobacco industry, primarily I think in the form of the deliberately designed overdose known as a cigaret, when a utensil as described above, offering 25-mg. single servings, makes a wide range of interesting herbs available at minimal or zero health risk to smokers, both those who wish to reduce and those who wish to eliminate their tobacco habit. An additional issue relating to Larrea is the claim, publicized a few years ago, that an individual "creosote bush" had been found, I think in Arizona, which is alleged to be 11,600 years old, or the oldest living organism on the planet. (What substances would an organism of such age, exposed to airborne news of a billion volcanoes, have learned how to synthesize in the meantime?) I haven't found any additional information about this yet, but perhaps your organization can provide same to my email address.

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Subject : Larrea tridentata  
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