Genus & Species Common Name Family Family Common Name
Cercocarpus ledifolius Nutt. Mountain Mahogany Rosaceae Rose Family

CHARACTERISTICS
Small tree or large shrub up to 25 feet tall and up to 20 inches in
diameter with a rough barked, crooked stem; sometimes forms almost
monoculture stands or mixed with conifers and junipers.
Scraggly, stout, 3-6 m tall; old bark gray, young twigs reddish,
pubescent, but soon glabrate; leaves evergreen, glabrate, pubescent, or
tomentose beneath, 1-3.5 cm long, lanceolate, entire, the margins
somewhat revolute, the. Petioles 3-5 mm long; calyx tube 9-9 mm long,
almost enclosing the body of the achene; the plumose style 5-7 cm long.
Dry ridges, Mont. to Wash., south to Colo., Ariz., ad Calif.

Var. hypoleucus (Rydb.) Peck. Similar to the species, but the leaves
permanently white tomentose beneath and sometimes above, narrower and
more revolute; petioles 1-2 mm long; calyx tube 4-mm long. Mont. to
Wash., south to Wyo., and Nev.
Another species, C. montanus Raf. should be looked for in the state. It
can be readily told by its coarsely toothed ovate to obovate leaves.

leaves
are persistent, revolute margins on a narrow, elliptic blade which is
densely lanate on abaxial surface, more or less glabrate on upper
surface, 1-3 cm long, pointed at both ends; petioles 1-5 mm long

flowers
apetalous, sessile, 1-3 in leaf axils, calyx lanate, recurved lobes of
hypanthium 1.5-2 mm long on a tube 4-7 mm long; 20-30 glabrous stamens

fruit
an achene 5-7 mm long bearing a persistent, plumose style5-8 cm long

habitat
usually rocky soils in desert foothills and mountain sides

distribution
southeastern Washington across Idaho to the Rocky Mountains of Montana
south through western Colorado into northern Arizona west through
southern California through southwestern Oregon

other
The wood of Mountain Mahogany can be so dense that it is said to sink
if freshly cut. Because of its density and strength is was used for
mining timbers, and to make novelties and flutes. It makes excellent
charcoal for cooking and smoking meat. It burns with little smoke and
is said to have been used by crooks for fires that could not easily be
detected because of lack of smoke.
The leaves and twigs are browsed by many animals, especially in winter
when it is still green and other plants have turned brown. Thus it is a
source of vitamins and proteins often lacking in plants in the winter.
The plumose achenes can be used as kindling to start fires.

Images:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,


Photos and content written by Karl Holte, 2002