Now that Fall is approaching in Pine Valley, watch for the brilliant yellow flowers of Ericameria nauseosa or Rubber Rabbitbrush. This plant has a pungent smell, which has earned it the name "nauseosa". It is often used to great advantage in xeriscaping in desert areas, and is an important source of browse for deer in the winter.
The Zuni used rabbitbrush flowerheads for a yellow dye, and the flexible stems for making baskets. The rubbery latex sap that runs from a broken stem was used to waterproof the baskets. The root sap has been used to make a chewing gum, and the stinky leaves have the reputation of being repellent to insects. The cottony heads of the maturing rabbitbrush have been harvested and used as pillow stuffing, which I think would be rather sneezy to sleep on!
In modern times, rabbitbrush has been scientifically studied as a source of rubber during both world wars and as recently as 1987. Currently it is being researched as a hypoallergenic rubber for those who have latex allergies. Look for rabbitbrush along the roadsides as it will be blooming through October.
By Laura Bergeson