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

Cercocarpus montanus

Cercocarpus montanus

Cercocarpus montanus (Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)
 

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Shrublands, canyons, woodlands. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 27 and October 11, 2010.

Mountain Mahogany is a very common shrub at altitudes from 5,000-8,000 feet.  Numerous light gray stems rise to 9 feet from a densely packed base and then lean outward giving a 4 to 8 foot crown spread.  In good years Mountain Mahogany puts on a beautiful display of tiny red and yellow trumpet flowers. These develop into seeds with feathery tails that loft the seeds on the winds of late summer and fall. 

Elk and Deer relish Mountain Mahogany twigs and their browsing can add to the plant's straggly look. 

Cercocarpus montanus was first collected for science by Edwin James in the Colorado Rockies in 1820 near the Platte River.  It was named by Rafinesque in 1832.

Cercocarpus montanus

Cercocarpus montanus

Cercocarpus montanus (Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Shrublands, canyons, woodlands. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 14, 2006 and Can-Do Trail, May 23, 2011.

Some people describe Mountain Mahogany flowers as "non-descript" or "inconspicuous". The half inch long and very narrow red flower tubes are flared at the tip and surround golden tipped stamens and a protruding pistil. They are lovely flowers and in masses are not only very attractive but also very pleasantly sweet smelling.

Leaves can be deeply or more shallowly serrated.

Cercocarpus montanus (Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Shrublands, canyons, woodlands. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 14, 2006.

Cercocarpus montanus
Cercocarpus montanus (Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Shrublands, woodlands, canyons. Spring.
Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, June 10, 2004.

After the floral tube falls and the seed grows, the style elongates into a feathery plume which eventually carries the seed aloft on the winds.  This type of seed dispersal is found on a number of plants in the Southwest; see for example, Fallugia paradoxa and Purshia stansburiana.

Cercocarpus montanus
Cercocarpus montanus
Cercocarpus montanus (Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Shrublands, woodlands, canyons. Spring.
The Hogback between Shiprock and Farmington, New Mexico, August 5, 2007.

Aborted floral tubes follow a spring drought.

 

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 montanus  

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