Purshia tridentata (Pursh) DC.
Purshia tridentata (Pursh) DC. var. tridentata
Antelope Bitterbrush, Bitterbrush, Antelope Bush
Bitterbrush is native to western North America, where it is found at elevations of 3281-8858' (1-2.7 km). It is found in sagebrush desert and ponderosa pine forests. Its first known collection was by Meriwether Lewis on the Lewis and Clark Expedition in July of 1806 near Lewis and Clark Pass, Montana. Frederick Pursh, the first to receive, work on, and publish the Lewis and Clark botanical collections, named the plant Tigarea tridentata in his 1814 publication, Flora Americae Septentrionalis.
Plants: Low, twisted, gnarly, and spreading, about 3' (91 cm) high and 6' (1.8 m) around. There are many horizontal, even prostrate branches and stems.
Leaves: Thick and small, less than 1" (2.5 cm) long, with very fine hairs that make the plant look grayish. There are three separated teeth at the end of each leaf, providing the “trident” in the species name “tridentata.” (There may be two more lobes as well.) The leaves curl tightly during droughts to reduce water loss.
Flowers: Creamy yellow or white, ¼-¾" (8-20 mm) aorund, with 5 petals and an unruly collection of about 25 yellow-tipped stamens. Flowers appear from March to June.
Fruits: Slightly fuzzy, ⅛-¼" (5-7 mm) long, and tapered, with achenes ¹/₃₂" (1.5 mm) long.
Purshia tridentata on Wildflowers, Ferns & Trees of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah
Purshia tridentata at the U.S. Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers site
Purshia tridentata on www.americansouthwest.net
Purshia tridentata from the Jepson Manual
Purshia tridentata description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 4 Aug 2019.