Deerweed or California Broom, is a small perennial shrub with many branches growing to a height of about three to four feet. This plant is drought tolerant, can help to reduce erosion, and is often one of the first pioneer species after a fire, before it is eventually replaced by other natives. It is found in coastal strand, coastal sage scrub and chaparral below 5000′, from Baja California to Humboldt County.
As a member of the pea family, Deeerweed is able to fix nitrogen, and is therefore very valuable in a garden. The flowers are typical of the pea family, with branches holding a number of yellow flowers that bloom from March to August. Depending upon available moisture, this plant can bloom nearly all year, with the color of the flowers changing to red after pollination. The pea-shaped flowers are attractive to many butterflies such as Acmon Blue, Orange Sulfur, Gray Hairstreak, Funereal Duskywing, Silvery Blue and Bramble Hairstreak. Away from the coast, Deerweed is also eaten by deer.
Lotus scoparious is the scientific name, derived from the Greek word Lotus (a fruit said to make eaters forget their homes) and scoparius, meaning broom-like.
The photo at the top was taken on More Mesa in March, 2002, and the photo with the Gray Hairstreak butterfly in mid-June, 2003. The picture on the left was taken at Jalama beach, where some of the Deerweed bushes are covered with mostly yellow flowers and others with pollinated red flowers.