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Burning Bush Bassia scoparia (Kochia scoparia, Kochia sieversiana)


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Burning Bush - habit
credit: Matt Lavin/CCSA

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Alternate name: Mexican-fireweed, Kochia

Family: Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot view all from this family

Description This bushy annual with striking bright red fall foliage forms a striking background or garden hedge, but it is a serious pest of cropland in the Great Plains.
Habit: introduced annual herb; erect stems, usually much-branched; pyramidal or rounded form; deep taproot.
Height: 1-7 ft (0.1-2 m)
Leaf: alternate, linear to lanceolate, narrow, pointed, stalkless, edges finely hairy, 1-4 in (2.5-10 cm) long, 0.02-0.5 in (0.5-12 mm) wide; green to gray-green, becoming red in fall.
Flower: inconspicuous, pale green, 0.2-0.4 in (5-10 mm) long; in terminal cluster and in clusters in leaf axils.
Fruit: dry seed, flat, brown to red-brown, to 0.125 in (3 mm) long.

Warning Can be toxic to animals if eaten. Humans should generally avoid ingesting plants that are toxic to animals.

Flower June to October.

Habitat Open, wet or dry areas: fields, pastures, rangelands, waste places, grasslands, meadows, prairies, chaparral, roadsides, disturbed sites, and sagebrush, desert shrub, and pinyon-juniper communities; to 10,000 ft (3000 m); also cultivated as an ornamental, for livestock forage, and for land reclamation.

Range Native to eastern Russia; introduced around 1900 as an ornamental; escaped and naturalized throughout North America; not reported in Alaska, northern Canada, Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, or Florida.

Discussion Also known as Mexican fireweed, fireball, summer-cypress, mock cypress, common kochia, mirabel. Considered weedy or invasive in many areas; listed as noxious, banned or weedy in Connecticut, Oregon, and Washington.

Like other species in this family, burning bush becomes a tumble weed when mature. An abscission zone develops at the base of the stem in autumn. When winds reach velocities of 25 miles per hour, the stem breaks and the plant tumbles away.