Wildflowers - Bitterbrush

Purshia tridentata
Rose family

What it looks like:
Bitterbrush is a medium-sized branchy shrub that grows up to 8 feet tall. While the flowers are small, they are abundant! The yellow flowers look like tiny wild roses and are very fragrant. The small (3/4 inch long) deciduous leaves are wedge-shaped with three lobes at the end. Bitterbrush generally blooms in late spring or early summer but on warm sites may bloom as early as April or in mid-summer in higher, cooler areas.

Where it grows:
Bitterbrush is found from the desert to the mountains, often growing with sagebrush. Bitterbrush prefers sandy, gravelly and rocky soils in cold desert shrublands and open ponderosa pine forests. Its range extends from the Cascades east to Montana, Colorado and New Mexico.

Look for bitterbrush on warm sites in the Boise foothills, around Shafer Butte and on the road to High Valley.







What's in a name? "Bitterbrush was first collected by Lewis and Clark in Montana on July 6, 1806. The name “Purshia” honors Frederick Pursh, the young botanist who classified many of the specimens collected by the Lewis and Clark expedition. “Tridentata” means three-toothed, referring to the leaves.

Interesting Facts:
Native Americans made a purple dye from the seed coat of bitterbrush, and the bark was used to make diapers and moccasins.

Bitterbrush is considered one of the most important winter range browse plants for deer, elk and antelope. Rodents also prize the seeds of the bitterbrush. Sometimes they will cache or eat nearly the entire year’s seed crop. Fortunately the plant can sprout roots where branches touch the ground, making new plants.

Bitterbrush makes an excellent ornamental plant.


Edible and medicinal plant values are furnished as historical information only.
We are not encouraging harvesting native plants for food and/or medicine.