This week’s Flower of the Week is the flowering shrub, Tobacco Brush. No need to go searching for this one, as it is abundant and is growing along almost every trail up in Ash Canyon. You can’t miss the large flower clusters either. Not only are they pretty to look at, but the aroma is strong enough to knock you back a step. Earlier in the season, it can be hard to tell Tobacco Brush from Manzanita without closer examination. The bushes often grow side by side, and have similar colors. With all the big white blooms now though, there is no mistaking the Tobacco Brush.
Ceanothus velutinus is a species of shrub in the buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae, known by the common names Red Root, Snowbrush Ceanothus and Tobacco Brush. It is native to western North America from British Columbia to California to Colorado, where it grows in several habitat types including coniferous forest, chaparral, and various types of woodland. It grows up to 4 meters tall but generally remains under three, and forms colonies of individuals which tangle together to form nearly impenetrable thickets.
Native Americans had a variety of medicinal uses for Tobacco Brush. I didn’t find any references to smoking the leaves, so I’m guessing the Tobacco Brush moniker refers to the appearance of the leaves.
Tobacco Brush seed germination is stimulated by wildfires, which is probably why we see so much of it right now. It’s been 6 years since the Waterfall Fire that burned much of the area.