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Plants: Creosote

Creosote has some incredible properties, ranging from their nostalgic scent to medicinal uses.

Latin Name: Larrea Tridentata

Family: Zygophyllaceae

Common Name: Creosote, Greasewood, Gobernadora, Hediondilla, Chaparral

Climate: dry, hot

Size: 3-5 ft tall, has gotten as tall as 10 ft

Flowers: 5 yellow petals, up to 1 in wide

Range: Southern California, across to West Texas and South into Mexico

Zygophyllaceae is a family of flowering trees, shrubs, and herbs and includes around 285 species often found in dry habitats. Creosote is no different and can be found throughout the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts. It is an evergreen shrub that prefers to grow in flat areas and thrives in areas lacking in abundant plant life. They’re often found in stands of low diversity, this has earned the the name “la Gobernadora” or the Governess. Creosote’s fallen leaves also exude allelopathic biochemicals that can prevent seed germination within their growing area. That being said, you can find a few different kinds of cacti thriving in the shade and wind block of a Creosote.

Fowering Creosote

Creosote produce small, yellow flowers that are important to native pollinators. Their leaves are too bitter for most animals but Jackrabbits will eat them if there’s not much else for them to eat. Before the extinction of American camels, camels were the main consumers of Creosote and efforts have been made to introduce Arabian camels to help control their abundance.

The oldest stand, known as the “King Clone”, is one of the oldest living organisms on Earth and is said to date back 11,700 years ago. Creosote will drop their older branches as they age and the crown will split into several crowns throughout time becoming a clonal colony that forms into a ring much like King Clone.

King Clone photo from Wikipedia

Although Creosote’s leaves aren’t palatable, when used medicinally, they’re called Chaparral and can be found in things like hand salves. Evan and I have been making our own Creosote hand salve and it’s been incredibly soothing for our dry desert hands and itchy bug bites. The leaves also produce a lovely scent in the rain and when extracted. Pictured below, and named Terlingua Rain because of Creosote’s association with the smell of desert rain is TOP’s first product.

Our homemade hand salve

Putting Creosote to good use is just another example of our ever present theme of minimizing waste as we have to remove Creosote to plant our food crops and construct buildings. Another one of its common names is Hediondilla which means “smelly” but the Creosote that aren’t removed make the rainstorms here even more special.

~Laura

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Laura Shaw

Owner of Terlingua Oasis Project

Former Bartender, Baker, Forager, Trail Guide, Cowboy, and Horse Trainer(which I’ve returned to part time).  I decided to lay down roots in the desert and help enact ecological and social change in the area by starting the Terlingua Oasis Project.

-Laura Shaw

Terlingua Rain

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Laura's Flora

Plants: Creosote

Creosote has some incredible properties, ranging from their nostalgic scent to medicinal uses. Latin Name: Larrea Tridentata Family: Zygophyllaceae Common Name: Creosote, Greasewood, Gobernadora, Hediondilla,

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