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   Cercocarpus intricatus and Coleogyne ramosissima can be quite difficult to tell apart. Click for photographs and details.

   Cercocarpus intricatus, Cercocarpus ledifolius, and Cercocarpus montanus also share enough similarities to cause difficulties in identification: the first two have short, narrow leaves with rolled under edges (but the leaves of C. ledifolius are considerably wider and longer than those of C. intricatus); all three are evergreen; bark on all three is most often a soft gray; flowers and fruits are quite similar.

    Overall, though, there are significant differences in the species. The leaves, flower, and fruit of C. ledifolius are about one and a half times larger than those of C. intricatus and C. montanus

    The leaf margins of  C. intricatus are tightly rolled under, those of C. ledifolius are moderately rolled under, and those of C. montanus are not rolled under. (Because of the tightly rolled edges of C. intricatus, it really should have the common name of "Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany", but it does not. That is the name given to Cercocarpus ledifolius which has leaves with only slightly rolled margins. So much for common names!!)

    C. intricatus and C. montanus grow scattered among Pinyon/Juniper, Blackbrush, and Ponderosa in thinner, rocky soils. C. ledifolius grows in more pure stands in similar environments.

    All three are found from about 5,000' to 9,000' with C. intricatus tending to be at lower altitudes and C. ledifolius at higher.

    The overall shape and size of the three plants really set them apart: C. intricatus is a rounded 2' to 5' tall and wide shrub with thin, interlaced branches; C. ledifolius grows in an upright posture to over 20 feet tall with stems commonly 2" to 5" thick; and C. montanus grows to 9' tall with an open airy growth of many thin vertical branches.

   Cercocarpus montanus (click to see) has a number of characteristics that set it apart from C. intricatus and C. ledifolius:  notice especially the leaf shape, habitat, and growth pattern.

   "Cercocarpus" is Greek for "tailed fruit" (see the photos below).  The common name, "Mountain Mahogany", is applied to all three species in our area, even to Cercocarpus species that grow in the high desert.

Cercocarpus intricatus
Cercocarpus intricatus (Narrow-leaf Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Desert, semi-desert. Shrublands, canyons, sand. Spring.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, March 26, 2007.

Cercocarpus intricatus has short, narrow, leathery-looking, evergreen leaves with rolled under margins, as shown in the leaf at right in the photograph below. The very light streak in between the rolled under leaf edges is due to silvery hairs.  As both leaves show, the upper leaf surface is glabrous (without hairs) and is pock-marked.

Cercocarpus intricatus

Branches are densely, intricately interlaced in a mass to 6 feet wide and tall. 

When the tiny red trumpet flowers open, they flare widely exposing red and yellow anthers, yellow-to-buff sepals, and a solitary style (the hooked appendage at two o'clock in the bottom flower below).  This style will  elongate and become plumose (feathery), as seen several photographs below and near the bottom of the C. montanus page.  

A four foot Cercocarpus intricatus has thousands of flowers, making it visually and sweetly attractive.

"Intricatus" describes the intricate branching of the plant.

Cercocarpus intricatus
Cercocarpus intricatus (Narrow-leaf Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Desert, semi-desert. Shrublands, canyons, sand. Spring.
Grandstaff Canyon, Utah, April 13, 2005.

Cercocarpus intricatus (Narrow-leaf Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Desert, semi-desert. Shrublands, canyons, sand. Spring.
Chesler Park Trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, June 8, 2003.

Seeds are borne at the base of the feathery, curled plumes.

Cercocarpus intricatus
Cercocarpus intricatus (Narrow-leaf Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Desert, semi-desert. Shrublands, canyons, sand. Spring.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, March 26, 2007.

Cercocarpus intricatus enjoys the view over Canyon del Muerto.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Cercocarpus intricatus