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Vascular Plants of California
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Larrea tridentata

Higher Taxonomy
Family: ZygophyllaceaeView DescriptionDichotomous Key
Habit: Annual, perennial herb, shrub, often armed; caudex present or not. Stem: branched; nodes often angled, swollen. Leaf: 1-compound, opposite, petioled; stipules persistent or not; leaflets entire. Inflorescence: flowers 1--2 in axils. Flower: bisexual; sepals 5, free, persistent or not; petals 5, free, generally spreading, twisted (corolla propeller-like) or not; stamens 10, appendaged on inside base or not; ovary superior, chambers (and lobes) 5--10, each with 1--several ovules, placentas axile. Fruit: capsule or splitting into 5--10 nutlets (= mericarps).
Genera In Family: 27 genera, +- 250 species: widespread especially in warm, dry regions; some cultivated (Guaiacum, lignum vitae; Tribulus, caltrop).
eFlora Treatment Author: Duncan M. Porter
Scientific Editor: Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: LarreaView Description 

Habit: Shrub, unarmed. Stem: branched, erect to prostrate, < 4 m, +- red becoming gray; nodes swollen, darker; hairs 0 or appressed. Leaf: stipules persistent; leaflets 2, fused at base. Inflorescence: flowers 1 in axils. Flower: sepals unequal, overlapping, deciduous; petals clawed, twisted, yellow, deciduous; stamen appendages bract-like, coarsely toothed. Fruit: 5-lobed, spheric, short-stalked, hairy, splitting into 5 hairy, 1-seeded nutlets.
Etymology: (Juan Antonio Pérez Hernández de Larrea, Bishop of Valladolid, Spain, 1730--1803)
Reference: [Lia et al. 2001 Molec Phylogen Evol 21:309--320]
Larrea tridentata (DC.) Coville
Leaf: leaflets < 18 mm, < 8.5 mm wide, obliquely lanceolate to curved; awn between leaflets < 2 mm, +- deciduous. Flower: < 2.5 cm wide; sepals ovoid, appressed-hairy; petal claw +- brown; stamens > appendages; ovary hairs dense, straight, stiff, silvery (red-brown in fruit); style 4--6 mm, persistent on young fruit. Fruit: 4.5 mm wide (except hairs), hairs +- 2--4 mm, dense, spreading.
Ecology: Common. Desert scrub; Elevation: < 1000 m. Bioregional Distribution: SNE, D, (uncommon Teh, SnJV, SCo, SnJt); Distribution Outside California: to southwestern Utah, Texas, central Mexico. Flowering Time: Apr--May Note: Closely related to southern South America Larrea divaricata. Clones may live > 11000 years, longest among extant plants; resinous odor characteristic; dominant shrub over vast areas of desert.
Synonyms: Larrea divaricata Cav. subsp. tridentata (DC.) Felger & C.H. Lowe; Larrea tridentata var. arenaria L.D. Benson
Jepson eFlora Author: Duncan M. Porter
Reference: [Lia et al. 2001 Molec Phylogen Evol 21:309--320]
Index of California Plant Names (ICPN; linked via the Jepson Online Interchange)

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Jepson Video for Larrea tridentata

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Botanical illustration including Larrea tridentata

botanical illustration including Larrea tridentata

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Citation for this treatment: Duncan M. Porter 2012, Larrea tridentata, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on March 01, 2024.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2024, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on March 01, 2024.

Larrea tridentata
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©2012 Keir Morse
Larrea tridentata
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©2016 Keir Morse
Larrea tridentata
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©2016 Keir Morse
Larrea tridentata
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©2008 Neal Kramer
Larrea tridentata
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©1992 Gary A. Monroe

More photos of Larrea tridentata
in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Larrea tridentata:
SNE, D, (uncommon Teh, SnJV, SCo, SnJt)
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map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).


Data provided by the participants of the  Consortium of California Herbaria.
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All markers link to CCH specimen records. The original determination is shown in the popup window.
Blue markers indicate specimens that map to one of the expected Jepson geographic subdivisions (see left map). Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.

CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time (fruiting time in some monocot genera).