Riparian Plants: Coyote Brush - Baccharis pilularis
Coyote brush can be found in a variety of riparian plant communities because it is an opportunistic colonizer of bare ground under little to no canopy cover. When such conditions arise, seeds easily dispersed by wind can establish. Most commonly, coyote brush grows on coarser soils higher on the floodplain in shrub communities and open Valley oak woodlands. Coyote brush typically occupies higher elevations of the floodplain because it is intolerant of flooding, its roots do not have to reach the water table, and it can tolerate periods of drought.
Coyote brush is a medium sized shrub that is typically between 2 and 5m in height. Coyote brush grows as a broad shrub with multiple stems under open canopies. Under closed canopies, coyote brush grows with fewer stems and tends to be taller. The many stems arise from clumps near the ground, and these stems themselves are highly branched, forming dense vegetative cover that is preferred by rabbits and small mammals, and also many low nesting birds. Coyote brush is a valuable shrub in riparian communities because it attracts a huge variety of insects, including galling insects, pollinators, native flies, and predatory wasps. These insects in turn are food sources for riparian wildlife. Unlike most of the riparian trees and shrubs, Coyote brush is evergreen and blooms later than most species, in the fall, which provides a late food source just before many insects over-winter.
For more information about the ecological tolerances and structure of riparian plants, see Gaines 1977, Conard and others 1977, Holstein 1984, Sacchi and Price 1988, Faber and Holland 1996, Cooper and others 1999, Vaghti 2003, Fremier and Talley 2009, and Vaghti and others 2009.
Coyote Brush dimensions