Herb: Blue Brush

Latin name: Ceanothus thyrsiflorus

Family: Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn Family)

Description of the plant:


4.5 m
(15 feet)

May to

Habitat of Blue Brush:

Wooded slopes and canyons below 600 metres, often in the neighbourhood of streams, in evergreen forests in California.

Other uses of the herb:

A green dye is obtained from the flowers. All parts of the plant are rich in saponins - when crushed and mixed with water they produce a good lather which is an effective and gentle soap. This soap is very good at removing dirt, though it does not remove oils very well. This means that when used on the skin it will not remove the natural body oils, but nor will it remove engine oil etc The flowers are a very good source, when used as a body soap they leave behind a pleasant perfume on the skin. The developing seed cases are also a very good source of saponins. The sub-species C. thyrsiflorus repens is a good ground cover plant for sunny positions, growing well on banks and reaching a height of 90cm. Plants can be grown as a hedge in exposed maritime areas though they do not succeed in the most exposed positions and can be slow to establish. Wood - close-grained, rather soft.

Propagation of Blue Brush:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 12 hours in warm water and then given 1 - 3 months stratification at 1C. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 2 months at 20C. One report says that the seed is best given boiling water treatment, or heated in 4 times its volume of sand at 90 - 120C for 4 - 5 minutes and then soaked in warm water for 12 hours before sowing it. The seed exhibits considerable longevity, when stored for 15 years in an air-tight dry container at 1 - 5C it has shown little deterioration in viability. The seed is ejected from its capsule with some force when fully ripe, timing the collection of seed can be difficult because unless collected just prior to dehiscence the seed is difficult to extract and rarely germinates satisfactorily. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter and plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, taken at a node, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, 7 - 12 cm with a heel, October in a cold frame. The roots are quite brittle and it is best to pot up the callused cuttings in spring, just before the roots break. Good percentage.

Cultivation of the herb:

Wooded slopes and canyons below 600 metres, often in the neighbourhood of streams, in evergreen forests in California.

Medicinal use of Blue Brush:

None known

Known hazards of Ceanothus thyrsiflorus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.