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Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius        Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius

 

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

Semi-desert. Shrublands. Spring.
My house, May 1, 2013 and July 24, 2021.

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. The few introduced specimens in the Four Corners area grow to over 20 feet tall, often with several stems to eight inches in diameter.

The ten year old plant photographed in 2013 and shown above left is seven feet tall. It has has filled out and grown to 12 feet in the 2021 photograph to its right. At the top of the page you can see that same plant on the left. To its right is another C. ledifolius planted at the same time and of the same height when planted but now grown to fifteen feet tall. In between the two C. ledifolius plants is a Viburnum Judd cultivar.

After decades of growth C. ledifolius bark darkens, 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 intermontanus 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; I believe that they are clearly different species. All other floras of the region also treat Cercocarpus ledifolius and Cercocarpus intricatus 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 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 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 variety intermontanus (Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

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

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

Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius variety intermontanus (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 variety intermontanus

Range map for Cercocarpus ledifolius variety intermontanus