[The Genus Ceanothus East of the Cascade Mts. of Oregon and Washington]

Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush

Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus

Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus

Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush: Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus (Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus)

The photo above shows a close-up of the flowers and shiny leaves of snow brush as seen on Potato Hill to the north of Mt. Adams........July 11, 2005.

Characteristics:

Snow brush is a sprawling evergreen shrub which is very aromatic. It ranges from 50-200 cm high. The young twigs are minutely puberulent to smooth. The leaves are alternate along the stems with 1-2 cm petioles. The leaf blades are ovate to ovate-elliptic in shape and range from 5-10 cm long. Individual leaves are thick and leathery in cross-section. The upper surface of the leaves is a shiny (but sticky) green and is often bronze-tinged. The lower surface ranges from smooth to grayish haired and has a velvety texture. Three prominent veins are found on the leaf surface and the leaf surface often curls downward and has many tiny, glandular teeth (See leaf photo at right and below.). The leaf emits a sweet aroma during warm weather. As the leaves curl strongly downward during warm summer weather, water loss is minimized as exposure to the lower leaf surface is reduced.

The white flowers are borne in large, dense pyramidal shaped panicles. Individual flowers are small. The fruit is a barely crested, deeply 3-lobed capsule. Each capsule lobe contains 1 seed. The capsules explode following intense heat to disperse the seeds.

Snow brush is also known as mountain balm, sticky laurel, greaswood, and tobacco brush. It is useful as a nitrogen-fixing plant. The flowers make a soapy lather when crushed in water, and they provide a fragrance and softness to the skin after washing. The leaves were used by Native Americans for tobacco, tea, and a red dye. The palatability of the plant is low.


Habitat:

Snow brush may be found on open, sunny slopes and in dry, open woods. It is especially abundant on fire-frequented sites.


Range:

Snow brush may be found from British Columbia south along the Pacific coast to California, and east (in mountainous areas) to South Dakota and Colorado.


Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush: Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus (Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus) - Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush: Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus (Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus)

Snow brush in bloom along the Swauk Discover Trail, several miles southwest of Swauk Pass, US 97........June 5, 2015.

Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush: Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus (Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus) - Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush: Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus (Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus)

Snow brush in bloom high on the eastern slopes of Burch Mt., several miles north of Wenatchee, WA........June 6, 2009.

Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush: Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus (Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus) - Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush: Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus (Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus)

Very late blooming snowbrush as seen on the eastern slopes of the summit of Spanish Peak, Ochoco National Forest.........September 25, 2016.

Leaf of Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush: Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus (Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus)
Shiny upper leaf surface of snow brush from Winter Ridge, Fremont N.F.........July 12, 1998.

Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush: Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus (Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus)
Snow brush from Buckhorn Overlook, Wallowa-Whitman N.F.........July 7, 1999.

Snow Brush, Sticky Laurel, Tobacco Brush: Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus (Synonym: Ceanothus velutinus ssp. velutinus)

Snow brush from Winter Ridge, Fremont N.F........July 12, 1998.

Paul Slichter