Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Mule Fat

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Mule Fat
Scientific Name:Baccharis salicifolia
Family:Asteraceae (Sunflower)
Plant Type:Shrub
Size:up to twelve feet
Blooms:January to December
Fire Response:Stump Sprout or Seed

Mule Fat is a willow-like shrub typically found in and around streambeds. It blooms throughout the year when supplied with an ample water source.

The shrub has numerous upright and nodding branches, like a small willow, though it is not in the willow family. Leaves are up to 6 inches long and lancelike. The "fat" in the common name comes from the sticky feel to the leaves and stems. Flower heads form clusters off of side branches. The disc flowers are an off-white to flesh color with reddish papery bracts; there are no ray flowers. Stamens and pistils grow on separate plants, with the female flowers having a hairier appearance (the photos on this page are male flowers).

The genus name Baccharis is in honor of the Greek god of wine, Bacchus. The species name salicifolia is derived from "salix", a word for willow.

Contributed by Liz Baumann

Mule Fat - Originally featured: October 2011
Last modified: May 12 2017 16:41:06.
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves