It's the Plants, Darling

Coyote Ugly

Coyote_bush2
If there was a prize for Worst Business or Office Landscaping in my hometown, it would surely go to the AAA office around the corner from my house.  It’s just a strip of dirt around the edges of a parking lot, and it wouldn’t be too hard to fill it up with something tough and long-lived and evergreen.  But instead it’s a mismash of small trees, shriveled and out-of-place rhododendrons, unsuccessful groundcovers, and weeds. From time to time a landscape crew comes by, sprays something gross on the trees, and covers the ground with gorilla hair.  Ugh.

And there’s this one Baccharis pilularis, or coyote bush. It’s a scrubby California native that only a native plant fanatic could love.  Dull, dark green leaves, little cottony flowers (depending on the sex), and–well, that’s it  It’s not showy or pretty or decorative in any way. Who would want a shrub like this?

Coyote_bush

About a bazillion different bugs, that’s who.  I walk past this shrub every day, and let me tell you, this thing hums.  It vibrates.  It buzzes all day long. When you walk down the sidewalk, you can actually hear it getting louder as you get closer.  You could take a science class on a field trip just to visit this one shrub.  I have never seen so many bugs in one place in my life.  Flies, bees, wasps, beetles, little tiny almost invisible something-or-others–really, this shrub is like a bug condo. Coyote bush, as it turns out, plays hosts to hundreds of native bug species, making it an incredibly important plant in terms of biodiversity.

So, AAA:  Your landscaping sucks.  It just does.  Fix it up, will you?  But whatever you do, don’t take out the bug zoo, no matter how ugly it is.

Posted by on October 13, 2008 at 9:48 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.
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13 responses to “Coyote Ugly”

  1. chuck b. says:

    Coyote Bush is ugly. It also likes to burn. But sometimes it has a nice sagebrush scent. And besides all those bugs, it also hosts the parasitic paintbrushes, Castilleja sp. The most garden-worthy selection is probably the low-growing ‘San Bruno’.

  2. chuck b. says:

    It’s also an early colonizer of disturbed landscapes, which rarely seems to be the case with native plants. (“Native” plant if you prefer; I don’t care.)

  3. Amy – Thanks for shaking things up and for your comment at my blog. It’s amazing the selective blindness that seems to infest our built environment. Thanks for raising the bar (again).

    bg

  4. If this shrub is attracting all those insects and if it’s far enough away from buildings so it doesn’t contribute to wildfires’ spreading, I say leave it and surround it and the other trees with some beautiful sustainable ground cover. Maybe turn this into a butterfly garden. Not sure what to plant your neighborhood, but I’m sure there’s a way to enhance and build upon the habitat.

  5. Lisa Albert says:

    Fun post!

    I gotta ask, what do you mean by “covers the ground with gorilla hair?” This gives me a very odd visual…

  6. Amy Stewart says:

    Gorilla hair is this shredded red bark that looks just like gorilla hair.

  7. kim says:

    I’m thankful we don’t have gorilla hair here in the mid Atlantic, or if we DO, that I haven’t seen any. It sounds bad.

  8. Sheridan Leckie says:

    If it’s red, wouldn’t it more likely be Orangutan hair?

  9. Jan says:

    This site sounds like the perfect spot for some guerilla gardening.

  10. Lisa Albert says:

    Thanks for explaining. I was picturing some poor hair-challenged (bald) gorillas running around your area.

  11. TC says:

    I’m seriously considering a proposal to management at my place of employment that would allow me to do some landscaping for them. If something isn’t done soon, their entire building will be consumed by ivy, some of it poison. It’s rather sad that AAA (and the place I work) doesn’t take more pride in what their landscape looks like.

  12. chuck b. says:

    Is there ever a good use for gorilla hair?

  13. StephCat says:

    Hey. I have a coyote bush and it looks fine. Rather innocuous, with all my other natives, but it is fine. Not ugly. And it’s doing well in a spot nothing else likes.

    Yeah, and we have gorilla hair, too.

    http://www.sunsetcat.com

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