Buckbrush is California lilac without lilac.

Most other specie of ceanothus are more colorful and tame than Ceanothus cuneatus is. It is known as ‘buckbrush’ because the abundant round trusses of minute flowers are typically dingy white instead of the more familiar shades of blue that have earned other ceanothus the common name of ‘California lilac’. However, a few wild plants and some garden varieties bloom blue.

Mature plants are at least six feet high and wide, but typically less than ten feet high and twelve feet wide. They are pleasantly fragrant as they bloom between March and April or May. Roots seem to tolerate almost any soil that drains well and does not get watered too much. Once established, no watering is needed. The scrubby evergreen foliage likes full sun exposure.

Although it is a bit unrefined, and does not want to be pruned for confinement, buckbrush works nicely as screening shrubbery on the perimeter of a landscaped area, or in unlandscaped areas. Newly installed small plants only need to be watered occasionally as they disperse their roots through their first year. Since they are native, established plants are satisfied with rainfall.


6 thoughts on “Buckbrush

    1. There are many more species of Ceanothus around North American than I was aware of back in the 1980s. We learned them as some of the more appreciated natives of California, as if they were native primarily to California. There are certainly more species of them here, but those of the East enjoy much larger natural ranges. Ceanothus americanus, New Jersey tea, is native from the East Coast to Texas! Some of the species here live within just a few square miles. One of the more popular species (from which cultivars have been selected) is native only to the region of Carmel.

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      1. California is very diverse. Except for the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, there are no big areas of similar climates. Within a few hundred acres here, I work in three distinct climate zones, The rainiest region of California is about ten miles to the northwest of here, but my former neighborhood just a few miles beyond that is in a rain shadow, so gets only a foot of rain annually. The entire state of Texas does not have as many climate zones as our small Santa Cruz County. Santa Clara County has many climate zones as well. Down south, Mount Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous Unites States, and is within view of Death Valley, which is the lowest elevation in the contiguous Unites States, below sea level.

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