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Cercocarpus montanus (Alderleaf mountain mahogany)
Brundage, Stephanie

Cercocarpus montanus

Cercocarpus montanus Raf.

Alderleaf Mountain Mahogany, Silverleaf Mountain Mahogany, Mountain Mahogany

Rosaceae (Rose Family)


USDA Symbol: cemo2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Alder-leaf Mountain Mahogany is an 8-20 ft. shrub or small tree with very attractive, almost-evergreen leaves - dark green on top and fuzzy silver underneath. Non-showy flowers are followed by feathery, silvery-white fruits, occuring from May to November.

Variety glaber is known by the common names Birchleaf Mountain Mahogany and Hardtack, among others. It is a common shrub in chaparral vegetation, sprouting after fire. It is also an important browse plant for deer, cattle, and sheep. The common and scientific names both refer to the resemblance of the leaves to those of shrubby birches. It is called Hardtack perhaps from its ability to withstand cutting, fire, drought, and heavy browsing. Cercocarpus, from the Greek words for "tail" and "fruit," describes the hairy tails or plumes from the elongated flower style. These hairy fruits are carried long distances by the wind; animals harbor them in their fur, also aiding dispersal. After falling to the ground, the oddly shaped fruits twist into the soil.


From the Image Gallery

16 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Achene
Size Notes: 8-20 feet tall.
Leaf: Green.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun


USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , KS , MT , NE , NM , NV , OK , OR , SD , TX , UT , WY
Native Distribution: S.w. OR to Baja CA, & in the Rockies & Great Basin from Treasure Co., MT & SD to Mex.
Native Habitat: Rocky hillsides; cliffs; open woods; mesas

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Alder-leaf mountain-mahogany is a shrub or small tree with very attractive, almost-evergreen leaves - dark green on top and fuzzy silver underneath. Non-showy flowers are followed by feathery, silvery-white fruits, occuring from May to November. It fixes nitrogen and is good for revegetation and erosion control. It tolerates both hot/dry and cooler/shadier sites, and is pH adaptable. Found mostly in the Texas panhandle.


Use Wildlife: Because this is a favorite deer browse, it seldom, in nature, achieves a tree-like form.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Western sheepmoth
(Hemileuca eglanterina)

Adult Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA
Mountain Mahogany Hairstreak
(Satyrium tetra)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Slow-growing from seeds; sow in cool soil. Heel cutting from summer wood may root.
Seed Treatment: Deplumed seeds should be soaked in water for thirty minutes before sowing. Stratification may then be necessary for 30 days at 41 degrees. Some sources recommend scarification for 10-20 minutes in concentrated sulfuric acid followed by 5-10 minutes of r
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.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Privacy hedge for South Dakota
August 08, 2008
Hi, I'm looking for something to use as a hedge. 8 foot or so tall offering semi privacy all year. I like dogwoods but loss of leaves in the winter makes me skeptical. Boxwood would be interesting...
view the full question and answer

From the National Organizations Directory

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

Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-05-09
Research By: TWC Staff

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