The spectacular yellow blooms which turn canyon
shelves from red to golden yellow are unmistakably those of Incienso,
Encelia farinose, the Brittlebush. In Grand Canyon, it grows on rocky
slopes below 3,000 feet, from river mile 40 to Lake Mead. It is quite
common and abundant in both the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. A member of
the Sunflower family, it has gray-green leaves and flower stems which
rise above the low growing branches.
One of the amazing parts of this plant is the gum, which was highly prized
as an incense by the Catholic priests in Mexico, and is still used to
this day in Northern Mexico. No wonder the Spanish name for this plant
is Incienso. It is also widely used as a tea for arthritis pain.
The leaves and gum both have a numbing effect which explains its use for
tooth, gum and throat pain by Native Americans. A salve from the gum has
been used to relieve body aches and lung congestion as well.
Modern-day tribes use the whole plant as a dye for baskets and fabric.
They also chew the fresh leaves and apply the pulp to insect bites for
relief of itching and inflammation. The tea will help break a fever in
colds and flus.