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Chrysothamnus nauseosus(Pall.) Britt.

Rubber rabbitbrush

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Has been considered as an emergency source of rubber, and more lately, of energy. According to Uphof (1968), American Indians used the plant as a source of chewing gum. According to USDA's Range Handbook (1937), the forage value is ordinarily nil or very low. From September to November, however, all classes of livestock lightly graze the flower tops, occasionally eating bits of the herbage and more tender stems.Still, many species of rabbitbrush are often considered weeds, which Cluff et al (1983) report can be controlled with 2,4-D if applied at the optimum stage of shrub susceptibility (periods of active plant growth and translocation). During unfavorable environmental conditions, mixtures of 2,4-D and picloram can be useful (Cluff et al, 1983).

Folk Medicine

Amerindians used the plant as masticatory. Shoshone took the steeped leaves as a tea for colds, coughs, and stomach disorders, the steeped dried flowers and/or leaves as a general tonic. Roots and tops were boiled together for hematochezia. The plant shows slight bactericidal activity. In small doses, the extracts lowered the blood pressure briefly in rabbits. In large doses, the fall in blood pressure was pronounced, accompanied by circulatory and respiratory failure (Minimum Lethal Dose, 2.3 cc/rabbit) (Train et al., 1957).


On a zero-moisture basis, the forage contains 12.8% protein, 3.2% fat, 75.2% total carbohydrate, 22.6% fiber, 8.8% ash, 0.95% Ca, and 0.38% P. Lewis and Elvin-Lewis (1977) describe the plant as poison. According to Kingsbury (1964), preliminary feeding experiments indicate that this species of Chrysothamnus is toxic to stock. Other species constitute desirable range forage. Fortunately, this species apears to be least palatable.


Perennial shrub, 3-20 dm tall, usually with several fibrous-barked main stems from the base, these much-branched, the twigs ill-scented, erect, usually densely leafy, clothed with a persistent feltlike gray, white, or greenish wool. Leaves linear-filiform to narrowly linear-oblanceolate, 2-7 cm long, 0.5-4 mm wide, 1- to 3-nerved, woolly to nearly glabrous. Flower heads in terminal rounded cymose clusters; involucre 6-13 mm high, the phyllaries (20-25) usually 3- or 4-seriate, mostly lanceolate or linear-lanceolate, usually with resinous-thickened midrib; flowers usually 5, yellow; corolla 7-12 mm long; pappus copious, dull-white (Reed, 1970).


From the American Center of Diversity, rubber rabbitbrush, or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate alkali, drought, heavy clay, poor soils, and slopes. (2n = 18)


In dry open places, in valleys, plains, and foothills; also in mountains. Native throughout approximately all the western third of the United States excepting the Pacific coast; north into Canada from southern British Columbia to Saskatchewan; south into northern Mexico (Reed, 1970).


Apparently ranging from Subtropical Thorn to Moist through Warm Temperate Thorn to Moist Forest Life Zones. Grows on open sites in sagebrush, juniper-pinyon and ponderosa-pine zones in the western plains, foothills, and intermountain valleys, inhabiting dry, sandy, gravelly, or heavy clayey and alkali soils. Commonly associated with sagebrush, salt bush, and various grasses but most frequently grows in dense stands, sometimes occupying several square kilometers (USDA, 1937). The salt rabbitbrush, C. nauseosus ssp. consimilis, is characteristic of sites with highly saline soils. Combined with greasewood, Sarcobatus vermiculatus (Hook.) Torr., it is considered an indicator of sites capable of supporting salt-tolerant grasses such as Distichlis stricta, Elymus cinereus, and Sporobolus airoides. It is not preferred by browsing animals (Cluff et al, 1983).


Not presently cultivated.


Harvested from the wild.

Yields and Economics

McLaughlin and Hoffman (1982) suggest that var. bigelouii can produce 12.5 barrels/ha of biocrude at a cost of $50.00 per barrel.


This species was identified as one of the more promising western species for the production of biocrude (hydrocarbon and hydrocarbon-like chemical fraction of plants which may be extracted by organic solvents and upgraded to liquid fuels and chemical feedstocks). Finding the cyclohexane extract to be 15.1%, the ethanol extract 20.8%, McLaughlin and Hoffmann (1982) calculated 13.2 kBTU/lb in the extractables, a biomass yield of ca 4.5 MT/ha or 12.5 bbls, at a per barrel cost of $50.00 or $13.10/million BTU.

Biotic Factors

According to Agriculture Handbook #165, Cucurbitaria umbilicata, Epochrium isthmophorum, Gibberidea arthrophyma, Melanomma occidentale, Rosellinia bigeloviae, Rosellinia ovalis, Syncarpella tumefaciens, and Thyrostroma utahense have been reported on the stems. The powdery mildew Erysiphe polygoni and the rust Puccinia stipae are also reported.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
last update July 8, 1996