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Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius Nutt.

Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany, Curl-leaf Mountain-mahogany

Rosaceae (Rose Family)


USDA Symbol: CELE3

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Curl-leaf mountain-mahogany is a 10-20 ft., sometimes taller, evergreen shrub or small tree with white bark and small, leathery leaves - dark-green on top and silvery underneath. Slightly resinous and aromatic evergreen shrub or small tree with compact, rounded crown of widely spreading, curved, and twisted branches and many stiff twigs. The leaves are narrow and pinched at the mid-rib, then bent to one side, hence the name curl-leaf. The flowers are inconspicuous, but the short, spiral, silver-haired seed plumes are eye-catching. The whole plant has a spicy aroma.

This species is a small tree characteristic of lower mountain slopes throughout the Great Basin. Deer browse the evergreen foliage year-round. The hard, heavy wood is an important source of fuel in local mining operations; it is also used for novelties, as it takes a high polish. The name "Mountain-mahogany" applied to this genus is misleading; these shrubby trees are not related to true mahogany (Swietenia), a valuable cabinetwood of tropical America. The dark reddish-brown, mahogany-colored heartwood may have led to this name. Navajo Indians made a red dye from the roots by grinding and then mixing them with juniper ashes and powdered alder bark.


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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Achene
Size Notes: Up to about 30 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow
Bloom Time: Jan , Feb , Mar , Apr , Dec


USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , NV , OR , UT , WA , WY
Native Distribution: W. MT to s.e. WA, s. to w. CO, n. AZ & CA
Native Habitat: High altitude desert areas; dry, rocky slopes; 4000-10,000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Dry, nutrient-poor soils.
Conditions Comments: Adaptable, hardy and trouble-free, this is a good dwarf specimen tree. The tree fixes nitrogen and is good for revegetation and erosion control. It is considered one of the hardiest broadleaf evergreen with the capacity for growing to tree size.


Use Wildlife: An important browse species.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: Slow-growing from seeds; sow in cool soil. Heel cutting from summer wood may root.
Seed Collection: Collect seeds as soon as the fruits are dry. This is usually indicated by a white aspect to the fruiting branches. Avoid exposure of skin to the hairy, white styles. Stored seeds remain viable for 5 years.
Seed Treatment: Three months moist chilling increases germination. Deplumed seeds should be soaked in water for thirty minutes before sowing.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Sibley Nature Center - Midland, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 37 - Calscape (2019) California Native Plant Society
Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Cercocarpus ledifolius in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Cercocarpus ledifolius in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Cercocarpus ledifolius


Record Modified: 2022-10-03
Research By: TWC Staff

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