By: Smiling Dog Landscapes

If I were the type of person that could hate plants, desert broom [Baccharis sarothroides] would be at the top of the list.

A native to the southwest and member of the sunflower family, desert broom can reach a height and spread of ten feet. It is composed of thin, green branches with no leaves on the mature plants. Immature plants will have narrow one inch long leaves. It can thrive in any soil, especially newly disturbed areas, with or without water. The shrub is either male or female with the female producing thousands of cottony seeds during the fall and winter that disperse in the wind.

Desert Broom has the following terrible, awful, horrible qualities:

• Super invasive and will take over an existing landscape plants space.

• Very hard to kill, foliar sprays of herbicide may burn the plant but it comes right back. The best strategy to get rid of it is to cut it off at the ground and immediately after cutting, paint the stump with undiluted roundup.

• Just plain ugly

• A strong allergen during October and November.

Now, let me share all of the good things I discovered from my research on this much maligned desert broom.

• It has medicinal qualities! In Mexico, indigenous people used a tea made from the twigs for sinus headaches and as a rub for sore muscles. Studies have found that the plant is rich in Leutoin which has known anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cholesterol lowering action. Beware! Some members of the sunflower family are poisonous.

• Government has studied the desert brooms use in absorbing the heavy metals in mine tailings, concluding that it may be useful in remediation programs for mine wastes.

• Erosion control

• When used in the landscape (only buy male plants) it can be used as a screen or hedge, and a space definer. It stays green all year and is very drought tolerant. Will grow in any soil and can take full sun.

• Attracts butterflies

I still don’t like it.

On October 25th join Tom and Bill for Desert Irrigation 101 from 9 am to 11:30 am.

To register for all of Smiling Dog’s free events, call 480-288-8749 or e-mail us at info@smiling