Ribbonwood (Adenostoma sparsifolium), also known as Redshank or Red Bush, is a durable hardwood, native to the chaparral-covered slopes of Southern California and Baja California. Its name comes from its distinctive strands or ribbons of shank (bark) that peel and hang wispfully from its multiple trunks. Related to the more common Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), Ribbonwood is usually found in elevations of from 1000 to 6000 feet and grows to nearly 20 feet in height. It's short, needle-like leaves are always green and equip the tree for water retention making it well adapted as an evergreen to low humidity and arid regions.
The willowy Ribbonwood is an excellent hot burning fuel but also has other practical and medicinal uses. The peeling ribbon-like bark for making cloth, and the wood itself has been carved into arrowheads. The seeds are edible and local birds and other wildlife feed on the seeds and fruit. Crushed twigs mixed with oil can be used as a salve for treating arthritis. Colds, chest congestion, and toothaches have been treated with an
infusion of the leaves, which also works as a mouthwash. As a cathartic, Ribbonwood can also be used to induce either bowel movements or vomiting in the relief of stomach ailments.
Even though Ribbonwood or Redshank has been used in these ways, any ingesting of a wild plant should be done either with a doctor's permission or under the recommendation of a professional and knowledgeable practitioner. SticksNChips bears no liability for the above applications of this plant.
During July and August, clusters of small white flowers decorate its delicate branches. Ribbonwood thrives in much the same areas as Manzanita; sandy and loamy soils, dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought, but require full sun. They also do well in acidic, neutral or alkaline soil as well as granite composites.
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