Foraging Desert Lavender (Bee Bush)

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Desert Lavender, Hyptis condea (formerly emoryi) is one of the most lovely plants you’ll find in the desert. It is such a surprise to rub the leaves between your fingers and smell the scent of lavender. Unlike English or French Lavender, however, Desert Lavender grows into a huge shrub, sometimes 8 feet tall and wide. That means more leaves and flowers available for harvest, which is really wonderful because you’ll want to be sure to take some home. There are so many uses for this fragrant desert plant.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

FORAGE

LAVENDER

APOTHECARY

COOKING

What is Desert Lavender?

Desert Lavender is one of those nondescript fuzzy gray shrubs. Unless you know what it is it will blend into the desert and never catch your eye. Once you get to know it, though you will seek it out and find it everywhere. The bees certainly know it’s there and will be covering the blossoms for the nectar and pollen it offers. Like all plants in the mint family, bees are drawn to its blooms.  That is one way you can find it. Just listen for the bees.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

Desert Lavender can be found growing in washes all over the valley. It thrives in the dry, rocky soil of the Phoenix mountain preserves. Like other desert plants, rain induces flowering, so Spring and Monsoon season are a great time to find it in bloom. Don’t worry if you don’t find flowers however. You can use the leaves just as you would the flowers.

How to Collect Desert Lavender

Once you find Desert Lavender you will likely find it all over in the same area, so collecting leaves and flowers is an easy endeavor. Look at the plant as a whole and determine if it appears to be healthy and abundant. Collect only 1/3 of the leaves of any branch, and of the plant as a whole. It is best to take small amounts from many plants unless it is a particularly large plant.

When you get home you can hang bunches to dry or use a dehydrator. Store the dried leaves and flowers in an airtight jar or vacuum sealed bag for longer storage.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

How to Use Desert Lavender

Just like French or English Lavender, Desert Lavender has medicinal, culinary, and aromatherapy uses. Both the leaves and flowers contain the essential oils, so feel free to use them interchangeably.

Medicinal Uses

Internal: Tea or Alcohol Tincture

  • Fever reducer
  • Mild, calming sedative (try mixed with chamomile)
  • Gastritis and peptic ulcer treatment

External: Salve, Bath, Poultice

  • Anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory
  • Helps heal cuts and burns
  • Helps limit external Candida growth
Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

Culinary Uses

Desert Lavender is a bit more astringent than culinary lavender. As a tea it has a slight bitterness, so sweetening it is a must. Only takes a small amount of the leaves or flowers to express itself. I think its an elegant flavor that makes me think of Victorian tea parties. Infused into cream or syrup for tea and scones is a perfect place for it, I think. Here are some ideas for you.

Desert Lavender Simple Syrup 

Ingredients

  • 1 c water
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh or dried Desert Lavender leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Place sugar and lavender in a quart jar.
  2. Pour boiling water into jar and stir until sugar is dissolved
  3. Let steep for 30 minutes
  4. Strain and use or store for a couple weeks in the refrigerator.

Desert Lavender Infused Honey

  1. Place 1-2 tablespoons dried Desert Lavender leaves and flowers in a jar.
  2. Pour 1 cup of honey into jar.
  3. Shake the jar every day for a week and then strain.

Desert Lavender Infused Sugar

  1. Place 1-2 cups sugar in a jar with 1-2 tablespoons dried or fresh Desert Lavender leaves and flowers.
  2. Shake jar and leave to infuse for 1 week.
  3. Grind in food processor

How to Grow Desert Lavender

Desert Lavender grows well in dry, rocky soil. It will also thrive in your xeriscape garden where it only gets watered once or twice a month in the summer. Grow it in full sun and it can get quite large. I have one in a pot and prune it regularly to keep it smaller. It still wants to be leggy, but I love its shape.

Propagation

  1. Seeds can be collected and sown in pots or directly in the ground.
  2. Softwood cuttings in the spring can be rooted in water and then planted out.
  3. Seedlings growing near the base of the plant can be foraged, dug up and replanted in the spring. Be sure to only take one or two  so that the plant can replenish. Never take all.
Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

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