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Scientific: Baccharis sarothroides
Common: desert broom
Family: Asteraceae
Origin: Sonoran and Mojave Deserts

Invasive alert: Desert broom is a classic case of reverse invasion. It's a Sonoran Desert native that has invaded the managed landscapes of Phoenix! It can typically be found near sources of water such as drip emitters, culverts and washes.

Pronounciation: BAC-kar-us sa-ro-THOR-i-dees

Hardiness zones
USDA 9-10

Landscape Use: Typically desert broom is an invasive native shrub. Otherwise, cultivated prostrate varieties are occasionally used as low maintenance ground covers in open planting spaces.

Form & Character: Upright and rounded to prostrate and spreading with extremely pungent shoot tissues, tough, agressive, well anchored.

Growth Habit: Evergreen, woody, narrowleaf perennial shrub, moderate to rapid growth up to 10-feet tall with equal spread, densely branched with a strong ability to regrow if severely pruned back to ground level. Prostrate cultivars are much lower growing, usually less than 3 feet in height. Prostrate cultivars will somtimes grow stems that revert to an upright habit. These upright stems branches should be removed.

Foliage/Texture: Small, linear to lanceolate, sessile green leaves to 1-inch long on green stems, older stems woody, very pungent; fine texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Desert broom is a dioecious plant having male and female flowers on separate plants. Female flowers are surprisingly showy, creamy white. In contrast, male flowers are not showy.

Seasonal Color: Creamy white female flowers during the fall.

Temperature: Highly tolerant

Light: Full sun

Soil: Thrives in desert soils.

Watering: None

Pruning: Except for the named prostrate cultivars which require limited care, prune at your own discretion....any frequency, any amount.

A note from Caption Obvious: Both invasive specimens and improved landscape cultivars are usually sheared just like every other landscape shrub growing in Phoenix by those 'landscape professional' wannabees, who are more dis-affectionately know as the 'Horticultural clods of Phoenix' (aka 'hort clods).

Propagation: Wind blown seed as fruit dispersal is by wind. Seedlings emerge in spring.

Disease and pests: None, though I wish there was someone or something out there in nature that would develop a taste for this repugnant and pungent plant.

Additional comments: Use only prostrate cultivated varieties in urban landscapes. Even those however have a tendency to revert to the wild type. The Baccharis hybrid 'Starn' (P.P.A.F.) ThompsonTM is a superior prostrate growing hybrid cultivar for use as a xeric woody perennial ground cover. It was developed by Dr. Tommy Thompson and Dr. Chi Won Lee of the University of Arizona. It is superior to Baccharis hybrid 'Centennial' (another prostrate cultivar) which is a female clone that can set seed producing copious seedlings of mixed form and height. 'Starn' grows to about 3-feet tall by 4- to 5-feet wide, is evergreen with bright green foliage and inconspicuous flowers, and can function as a tough, low-maintenance, perennial ground cover for difficult planting sites in a desert city.

Final words of landscape wisdom: Desert broom is an urban invader! Now, how to get rid of it when it invades your yard is the real question. My suggestion? Attack with gusto! First, cut back the invasive specimen severely to the ground in late summer. Second, when the new growth of the invasion specimen begins to re-emerge (usually a few weeks after severe cutting), spray with a systemic herbicide like glyphosate (Round Up) to kill completely - it may require a couple of applications spaced about a month a part. If desert broom seedlings emerge within canopies of landscape shrubs BE SURE to rouge at first notice as desert broom seedlings grow a vigorous taproot, which makes this plant exceedingly difficult to 'yank' out of the ground after it becomes established.