Mulefat (Seep Willow)… Baccharis salicifolia

Living in one of the more flora diverse states in North America, I often take for granted some of the flora resources available to me, that are not available to others.

Recently, Creek Stewart, of Willow Haven Outdoor contacted me asking me if I could send him some Mulefat. Of course I agreed, but it left me thinking, “Wow! I’m pretty fortunate to have it so available to me, to the point it can almost be considered invasive in some areas”…. Shhhh! You never heard me say that. The fact is, Creek is not the first to ask me to send him some. So, what is this wonder wood people want so much?

Baccharis salicifolia

Mulefat, or Seep Willow —as it is commonly known in Arizona— is the go to wood we use out west for hand drill spindles. They grow straight, are of the right diameter, and are also of the right density for firemaking. But what is little know about mulefat is it had so many other uses to Native Americans, more than just a tool to make fire with.

Mulfat is all the green shrubs you see. Notice the long straight stems

The Cahuilla and Costanoan tribes both made a infusion of the leaves and washed their hair and scalp in order to promote hair growth and prevent baldness. Cahuilla women would make a decoction of the leaves and used it for gynecological hygiene.

Digueno Indians made an infusion of the leaves and applied it as a poultice to bruises and insect bites.

Navajo made an infusion of the plant and used it as a lotion for chills from immersion.

Both the Mojave and Yuma used it as a starvation food by roasting and eating the young shoots when nothing else was available

Mulefat Seep Willow… Baccharis salicifolia

The Cahuilla, because of the long straight limbs, used mulefat in housing construction

The Kawaiisu made arrows from the long straight limbs and also burned the plant to a black powder and mixed it with another ingredient to make gun powder.

Of course, we know some tribes also used mulefat for hand drill spindles.

I hope you enjoyed this article on Mulefat. Now you know it’s not just a firemaking tool