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Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius

 

 

 

 

 

Cercocarpus ledifolius (Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands. Spring.
My house, May 1, 2013.

Of the three Cercocarpus species found in the Four Corners states, C. ledifolius is by far the most robust, tallest, and thickest of stem, and it is also the least common. Plants in our area grow to over 20 feet tall, often with several stems to eight inches in diameter. The ten year old plant shown on this page is eight feet tall but others of the same age might be twice that height. Some plants grow lean and tall; some thick and low. After decades of growth their shape is very similar and bark darkens and thickens and cracks. Trees can then reach 30+ feet tall and over 100 inches in diameter and live to over 1,000 years. To see Cercocarpus ledifolius in massive stands, visit Great Basin National Park.

Cercocarpus ledifolius has a most attractive, sweet smell, but it is not due to glands, leaves, bark, etc. I cannot find information about the source of the Cercocarpus ledifolius aroma, but it is most likely due to aromatic compounds exuded by the plant. Whatever its source, the smell is delicious.

See Cercocarpus intricatus and Cercocarpus montanus and read about the similarities of the three plants.

The Flora of North America and BONAP treat the species shown on this page as Cercocarpus ledifolius variety montanus and treat what I call Cercocarpus intricatus as C. ledifolius variety intricatus. Although I follow these two authorities in almost every respect, I do not with these two taxa; they are clearly different species. All other floras of the region also treat them as separate species.

The shape, rapid growth, numerous flowers, and evergreen quality make Cercocarpus ledifolius an attractive garden ornamental and the photographs on this page are of one of the two C. ledifolius plants in front of my house.

Famed botanist and Harvard teacher, Thomas Nuttall, discovered this species for science in 1834 in Idaho on one of his botanizing trips across the continent, and he named the plant in Torrey and Gray's North American Flora of 1840. "Ledifolius" means "with leaves like those of the genus Ledum, Labrador Tea".

Somehow Cercocarpus ledifolius is commonly known as "Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany", and although its leaf margins are somewhat rolled under, it is Cercocarpus intricatus which has the strongly curled leaf margins. See the last photograph on this page to observe the slightly rolled margins of C. ledifolius.

Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius (Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands. Spring.
My house, May 1, 2013.

Although the flowers are small, they are numerous in tight showy clusters.

Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius (Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands. Spring.
My house, May 1, 2013.

Leaf margins are slightly, but obviously, rolled under. The leaves are thick, prominently veined, short-hairy, and evergreen.

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

Cercocarpus ledifolius

Range map for Cercocarpus ledifolius (The above map is incorrect in showing confirmed records of Cercocarpus ledifolius in the southwest corner of Colorado and the north west corner of New Mexico. The plant has never been found in those two areas.)