Fernbush flowers are white and sticky, about ½ inch wide with yellow centers. Many insect species such as this Thicket Hairstreak butterfly visit the fernbush in flower during August and September. Smaller birds such as Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Lesser Goldfinch and others flock to feed on tiny insects that hide inside the blossoms.
The 2 to 7 foot fernbush has leaves that look like tiny ferns, but the plant is related to roses, not ferns. The bush is evergreen but the leaves curl up in winter and many are shed. The dried flower stalks remain all year, slowly losing their small reddish seeds. Mule deer and bighorn sheep browse the fernbush, which is one of the South Rim's most common shrubs.
Fernbush leaves are 1 to 1½ inches long; they are furry and sticky and have a subtle, pleasing odor.