The birds will come.
Brittle bush grows into a two to three foot mound and the low growing branches create a sheltering grotto for ground-dwelling birds and lizards. The yellow flowers last from early spring to early summer and then go to seed. The Arizona Native Plant Society calls brittle bush one of the desert’s best seed producers. So don’t cut off the dead flowers! Instead watch for the birds to come. House finches, sparrows and Gambel’s quail find plentiful brittle bush seeds an important survival food. Desert spiny lizards or whiptail lizards scurry into the shade under the branches looking for insects to eat or a place to hide. Perhaps your brittle bushes will attract roadrunners looking for lizards for lunch.
Medicinal as well.
Indigenous peoples found the brittle bush to be useful in many ways. Poultices of brittle bush were used to relieve pain. A strong tea was brewed of blossoms, leaves and stems and swished in the mouth for toothaches. This tea is still used as a folk remedy for arthritis brought on by damp weather. The plant’s aromatic resin was used by the Seri Indians to seal pottery and Spanish priests burned it in their churches as incense.
So easy to grow.
Brittle bush thrives in the poorest soil and needs just minimal irrigation. A little water in the summer will keep it from going drought dormant. For a more handsome plant, cut it back sharply in the fall. If you have one brittle bush, you’ll probably get volunteers. Baby brittle bush will sprout here and there, but they pull out easily.
Brittle bush is Encelia farinosa common name incienso.
Sources: Arizona Gardeners Guide by Mary Irish, Arizona Native Plant Society, ag.arizona.edu