Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mountain Mahogany

Cercocarpus

A genus of 6 species of semi-evergreen to evergreen trees and shrubs that are also known as Mountain Mahogany. They are all native to western North America and are distant relatives of the Roses. They are elegant low maintenance trees and are becoming increasingly popular in the west. All Cercocarpus have stiff branches and scaly bark. The inner bark makes an excellent purifying orange-brown tea.
The dark brown wood is hard and heavy. The wood makes excellent fuel, it burns for a long time also giving off intense heat.
They are easy to grow within their native range and deserved to be much more widely used in landscaping. They are sometimes seen sold in containers in the west.
The Cercocarpus prefer full sun on moderately dry to moist well drained soil. They are drought tolerant once established. So drought tolerant that in fact they are sometimes the only hardwood tree in some parts of their natural range. Their roots fix nitrogen enabling them to thrive on very poor soil.
Propagation is from seed, cuttings and layering. Germinating is quicker if seeds are soaked for 8 minutes in hydrogen peroxide then rinsed in cool water before sowing.
They should be transplanted to their permanent sites as young container plants.
They can also be grown from semi-ripe cuttings taken during mid summer.
Cercocarpus's suffer in wet humid climates and are not known in the eastern U.S.
CAUTION: Deer protection may be needed, however in contrast these plants may be grown for cattle feed in dry climates.

* photo of Cercocarpus and Pinus monophylla forest taken by A.M. Longacre and the Marian Koshland Bioscience and Natural Resources Library, University of California, Berkeley


Cercocarpus alnifolius ( Island Mountain Mahogany )
Also called Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae. It is a narrow evergreen shrub to small tree, typically reaching around 12 x 4 feet, that is native to the Catalina Islands. Some records include: largest on record - 33 x 7 feet.
Its narrow habit makes it an excellent screen plant for the landscape.
Its foliage is very luxuriant, in fact the most luxuriant and lush of all the Cercocarpus.
The obovate leaves, 2.5 inches in length, are deep green above, white hairy beneath.
The foliage becomes deciduous and drops at temperatures below 12 F however there is no stem damage and new foliage will appear following spring.
Hardy zones 7 to 9, no damage reported at 0 F.

Cercocarpus betuloides ( Birchleaf Cercocarpus )
A moderate growing, graceful, open, evergreen shrub to small tree, reaching up to 25 feet, that is native from southern Oregon to Arizona, south to Baja. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 3 feet; 3 years - 4 x 2 feet; largest on record - 40 x 30 feet with a trunk diameter of 1.9 feet.
It makes an excellent attractive screen for dry climates.
The obovate leaves, up to 1.5 x 0.5 inches ( 2.5 inches in length in subspecies from less hardy subspecies from Catalina Islands ), are deep green above, white hairy beneath.
The flowers are borne in clusters of 1 to 3. They are followed by attractive silvery fruits.
The bark is smooth and light gray.
Hardy zones 6 to 9 ( tolerating as low as -20 F with no damage ) in full sun to partial shade. Very drought tolerant. Older plants can be cut to near ground while dormant to encourage fresh growth.

* photo of unknown internet source

* photos taken by Jean Pawek @ CalPhotos


Cercocarpus breviflorus ( Hairy Cercocarpus )
An evergreen large shrub to irregular, erect to spreading small tree, reaching up to 16 feet, that is native to mountainous parts of Arizona, New Mexico to western Texas; south into bordering parts of Mexico. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 2 feet; largest on record - 25 x 20 feet with a trunk diameter of 1 foot.
The oblong leaves, up to 1 x 0.5 inches, are gray-green above, hairy beneath.
The flowers are borne in clusters of 1 to 3.
The bark is red-brown.
Hardy zones 5 to 8. Very heat and drought tolerant.

Cercocarpus intricatus ( Littleleaf Cercocarpus )
Also called Cercocarpus ledifolius var. intricatus. A small tree, reaching up to 20 x 25 feet.

* photo of unknown internet source


Cercocarpus ledifolius ( Curlleaf Cercocarpus )
An attractive, moderate growing, evergreen shrub to small tree, reaching up to 25 feet, that is native to the Rocky Mountains from north central Oregon, far southeast Washington to western Montana and central Wyoming; south to southern Californin, southern Nevada, northern Arizona to southwest Colorado. Some records include: largest on record - 50 x 36 feet with a trunk diameter of 4 feet; longest lived - 1350 years!!!. An extremely useful plant for the dry intermountain west; it even makes an excellent sheared hedge. Can be pruned heavily and trained into a bonsai, often even naturally appearing that way in the wild.
The smooth-edged, narrow oblong leaves are up to 2 x 1 ( rarely over 1.5 ) inches in size. The foliage is glossy deep green above, gray or brown felted beneath. The leaves can be used to make tea.
The solitary, white haired flowers are borne mid to late summer.
They are followed by plumed silvery fruit.
The branches are twisted. The bark is red-brown and furrowed on mature trees.
Hardy zones 2 to 7 in full sun to partial shade. Easy to grow. Requires 22+ inches of yearly precipitation.
Tolerates seashore conditions and drought.
OTHER USES: You can make your own tea by using the leaves of this tree.

* photo of unknown internet source

* photos taken by Sheri Hagwood @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
* photo taken by Cassondra Skinner @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* photo taken by USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database


Cercocarpus montanus ( Alderleaf Cercocarpus )
A moderate growing, deciduous to semi-evergreen, twiggy large shrub to rounded small tree, reaching up to 18 feet, that is native to the western U.S. ( from central Oregon to southeast Montana to western South Dakota; south to southern California to Laredo Texas ). It is endangered in Montana. Some records include: largest on record - 23 x 17 feet with a trunk diameter of 0.8 feet. It generally takes 2 years to produce a 1 gallon plant in nursery production.
The deeply-veined, coarsely toothed, spathulate to rounded leaves, up to 1.3 inch, are glossy deep green above, downy white beneath. The foliage turns deep yellow during autumn.
The small, greenish-white to dull pink, tubular flowers are clustered, borne during early spring,
They are followed by a fruit that is a wooded capsule tailed with a twisted feathery plume, up to 2 inches in length, persisting through the winter.
The bark on young trees is brown and smooth with paler lenticels, darker with with rough narrow ridges on older trees.
The dark brown wood is hard and heavy.
Hardy zones 3 to 9
OTHER USES: An important browse plant for cattle, sheep and deer.

* photo of unknown internet source



'Argenteus'
Originating in western Texas, has silvery foliage and is exceptionally hardy, thriving as far north as zone 4 ( tolerating as low as -38 F ).

var 'traskiae'
Reaches a maximum size of 25 x 27 feet. The leaves are larger, up to 2.5 inches in length.
Hardy north to zone 8.

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