Whispy and feathery seeds point upward with scattered small five petaled flower and green pointy leaves.
Detailed flowers, leaves, and seeds on an apache plume.

Common Shrubs at Grand Canyon

Reddish brown woody stems point vertically with clusters of leaves that appear like small ferns.
Chamaebatiaria millefolium – Rosaceae

NPS Photo / E. Gelfat


Chamaebatiaria millefolium – Rosaceae

  • Easily identified by its fern-shaped leaves, which are 1-4 inches long
  • Only woody shrub in the area to have leaves of this shape and size
  • 3-10 feet tall and densely branched
  • Unique foliage and attractive, cone-shaped array of flowers make it suitable as an ornamental plant in landscaping
  • Serves as a host plant for the spring azure butterfly
  • Leaves are covered in sticky glands that produce a pleasant aroma
Narrow yellow flowers point upward out of mint green stalks.
Rubber Rabbitbrush
Ericameria nauseosa – Asteraceae

NPS Photo / E. Gelfat

Rubber Rabbitbrush

Ericameria nauseosa – Asteraceae

  • Large, bushy shrub with foliage ranging from green to gray
  • Somewhat broom-shaped with many stems and small leaves
  • Numerous yellow flowers in late summer to early fall
  • Fire adapted species that sprouts vigorously after wildfire
  • Hardy plant that can be used in landscaping or for windbreaks
  • Contains latex that could be used in rubber production
Multi lobed small leaves cluster together on red-brown branches.
Wax Current
Ribes cereum – Grossulariaceae

NPS Photo / E. Gelfat

Wax Current

Ribes cereum – Grossulariaceae

  • Large shrub, up to 6 feet tall
  • Leaves are roughly oval with shallow lobes and a sticky surface
  • Produces a pleasant spicey aroma which can sometimes be smelled from several yards away
  • Has small tube-shaped flowers that are white to pink
  • Produces edible red or orange berries (currents)
Lengthy mint green leaves lobed on the top point in the same direction off of a grey branch.
Big Sagebrush
Artemisia tridentata – Asteraceae

NPS Photo / E. Gelfat

Big Sagebrush

Artemisia tridentata – Asteraceae

  • Large woody shrub (1-9 feet tall) with thick, gnarled trunks
  • Small Blue-gray leaves with three distinct lobes
  • Strong sage aroma
  • Drought tolerant plant that often occurs in dry basins or plateaus
  • Not well adapted wildfire
  • Threatened by invasive cheatgrass, which increases the risk of wildfires
  • Food source for wildlife such as pronghorn, sage grouse, and rabbits
Oval leaves, dark green on top and light green blow curve upward, while a few fuzzy feather-like seeds burst from the top of the plant.
Mountain Mahogany
Cercocarpus ledifolius – Rosaceae

NPS Photo / E. Gelfat

Mountain Mahogany

Cercocarpus ledifolius – Rosaceae

  • Large shrub / small tree, up to 25 feet tall
  • Has small, stiff, evergreen leaves shaped like elongated ovals
  • Long-lived species, up to 1300 years
  • Seeds have a long white feather-like tufts that aid in wind dispersal
  • Fixes its own nitrogen (essential nutrient) from the atmosphere, unlike most plants
  • Can grow abundantly after fires and form dense thickets
Bright green waxy colored leaves are clumped together while yellow five petaled flowers with yellow centers radiate.
Purshia stansburyana – Rosaceae

NPS Photo / Ty Karlovetz


Purshia stansburyana – Rosaceae

  • Shrub or small tree 2-12 feet tall
  • Older individuals have shaggy, fibrous bark
  • Small three-lobed leaves are thick and sticky with a distinctive odor
  • Seeds have long feather-shaped white tufts. Often, these tufts form small clusters
  • Has showy white and yellow flowers which can be quite prolific
  • Food source for elk, deer, pronghorn, and domestic livestock
Two five petaled white flowers with yellow centers are surrounded by whispy pink feather-like seeds.
Apache Plume
Fallugia paradoxa – Rosaceae

NPS Photo / Michael Quinn

Apache Plume

Fallugia paradoxa – Rosaceae

  • Bushy, many-branched shrub up to 6 feet tall
  • Has attractive white flowers throughout the summer
  • Seeds are produce in clusters and have long white feather-like tufts
  • Similar in appearance to cliffrose, but can be distinguished by:
  • More bushy, less tree-like form
  • More seeds per cluster, producing a dense fluffy tuft
  • Thinner, lighter-colored leaves which lack a sticky coating
Pointy blue green leaves branch off of a woody branch with small yellow 6 petal flowers.
Fremont Barberry
Mahonia fremontii – Berberidaceae

NPS Photo / Ty Karlovetz

Fremont Barberry

Mahonia fremontii – Berberidaceae

  • Large bushy shrub: 3-14 feet tall
  • Easily distinguished by sharp teeth on the margins of the leaves
  • Produces abundant yellow flowers in the spring
  • Has yellow, red, or dark blue berries in late summer
  • Berries are edible, but not particularly palatable

Last updated: October 20, 2021

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