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Q: Ceanothis known as "tick bush" - any truth to it? ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Ceanothis known as "tick bush" - any truth to it?
Category: Family and Home > Gardening
Asked by: sarinda-ga
List Price: $22.22
Posted: 26 Mar 2005 08:51 PST
Expires: 25 Apr 2005 09:51 PDT
Question ID: 500710
The wild ceanothis bushes growing near my childhood home in northern
California were called "tick bush."  I always assumed that this was
because they harbored ticks.  But I recently heard an opinion that the
name derives from the small, shiny seeds that perhaps look a little
bit like ticks.

If they DON'T harbor ticks I'd love to plant some in my garden.  If
they DO harbor ticks I'll continue to give them a wide berth.  I'm
looking for an authoritative answer - a simple opinion won't be
sufficient, please provide some sort of "proof."
Subject: Re: Ceanothis known as "tick bush" - any truth to it?
Answered By: richard-ga on 26 Mar 2005 10:57 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello and thank you for your question.

The answer is that ceanothus probably does harbor ticks, i.e., the
ticks on your property are likely to congregate on its branches.  The
plant may be attractive to passerby ticks, and to that degree it will
increase the tick population.

"Some ceanothus species including impressus are called by the unlovely
name "Tick Bush" where they grow wild in California. Many sorts of
shrubs get called Tick Bushes when they grow in hot dry areas where
ticks use the higher arching branches as springboards to leap onto
large mammals (including people)."

Dripping Springs Trail
"Ticks are definitely seasonally present on this trail, mostly in tick
heaven, the portion at mile 3.2 - 3.8 where the trail winds around the
western part of the first ridge, coming from the annual grasses
hanging over the trail in that area. ... Between the top of the
switchbacks and tick heaven is the first whitethorn ceanothus at about
mile 3.15 and elevation 2800'."

"The native shrubs in the surrounding scrub didn't have a sinister
tinge, they were downright evil. They harboured the bottle ticks,
which killed our dogs and cats with amazing regularity. Even kids
would swell up to twice their size and writhe in delirium with ticks
in the head. It was natural, then, that anything that wasn't a gum
tree or a wattle tree was labelled a tick bush. If we didn't think
twice about cutting down gum trees, we didn't think at all about
clearing tick bush. The town was constantly wreathed in the smoke of
our fires of purification as we all burnt-off encroaching tick bush. 
This then was our classification scheme for Australian flora; gum
tree, wattle tree, and tick bush. We didn't need to know any more to
manage our environment. It was sufficient; we were content with it,
and it placed us in harmony with our surroundings."
[But as to this last, tongue-in-cheek aside, the tick bush in question
is probably a Tasmanian Spring Flower (Kunzea ambigua)]

My initial reaction to the above was that you should plant the
Ceanothus anyway.  I was going to say that since ticks will not be
using the plant as a food source, it's not going to increase their
population, and might even serve to segregate them.  For comparison I
looked at hummingbird-attracting plants.
But it turns out that the way to attract hummingbirds is to plant
prominent red flowers, not that they're particularly prized by the
hummingbirds but that they'll see the color and decide to linger
rather than pass by.

Ticks are quite mobile.  
"Because of their migratory paths, birds may transport ticks to new
areas .... Ticks also can hitch rides with travelers and their

So if you are gong to provide an inviting habitat, it's reasonable to
assume that the tick population will increase on your property.

Search terms used:
"tick bush" insect
Ceanothus ~tick
Ceanothus impressus
tick mobility insect

Thanks again for bringing us your question.

Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by sarinda-ga on 26 Mar 2005 21:09 PST
Unfortunately, the info provided doesn't actually answer my question. 
In retrospect, I should have stated it as "will ceanothus harbor ticks
in disproportionally high numbers?"  Any plant could have ticks on it,
and many do.

I was hoping for something a bit more concrete.  Something like: "Yes
- life cycle foo of the tick is served by component bar of the
ceanothus." or "No - the name was coined by Mr. Soandso for completely
different reasons in the year 18mumble."

-Sarinda (Google Answers newbie)

Clarification of Answer by richard-ga on 27 Mar 2005 06:06 PST
Hello again

You'll find the tick life-cycle in this brochure

The only element of the tick life cycle that's pertinent here is their
use of the arching branches of low-lying bushes as perches.  Here's
more about that behavior:

"Most likely, you pick up a tick when you brush against the grass or
shrub on which it is perched. They are usually found within three feet
of the ground.
Their keen sense of carbon dioxide, body heat, and other stimuli
allows them to prepare for their "host" - and then use their forelegs
to grab onto clothing, hair, or skin."

"Once in a while there will be so many ticks on tree branches and in
rocky areas that you won't be able to avoid their presence"

"Removal of excess brush and shrubbery so that 50% to 80% of a
management area is exposed to direct sunlight are recommended control
practices.... Mowing vegetation with a bush-hog rotary mower reduced
adult deer tick populations by 70%."

So clearly, although ceanothus has no magic power to attract or
sustain ticks, planting it would enhance the habitat from a tick's
point of view.

I certainly can't tell you who first coined the name "tick bush," nor
what they were thinking.  As noted in my Answer the term is widely
used in Australia for a different plant.

I believe my answer is as much as can be known in this case.


Request for Answer Clarification by sarinda-ga on 27 Mar 2005 15:25 PST
OK.  I'm convinced.  *grin*
Thank you for your help in tracking this one down!  If I happen to run
into a tick researcher I'll be sure to ask for more detail, but at
this point I'm comfortable planting ceanothus in my garden.


Clarification of Answer by richard-ga on 27 Mar 2005 20:03 PST
Thanks for the kind words, and best of luck with your garden.

sarinda-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Great job by the researcher, but the question was tricky enough that a
definite answer was hard to find.

There are no comments at this time.

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