Cercocarpus betuloides, California Mountain Mahogany, is a species in the family Rosaceae. It typically grows in dry areas in the foothills and mountains of California, often in chaparral communities, and in other parts of the Southwestern United States and Baja California.
This shrub has a typical size of three to five meters - 9-15 feet in height. The etymology of the species name derives from the Greek “kerkos”, from which the genus name root cerco derives, meaning "tail", referring to the tail-like appearance of the fruit; and carpus meaning "fruit": thus “fruit with tail”. Betula is the genus for birch, and the species name refers to the birch-like leaves.
The Cercocarpus betuloides leaves are distinctive in that they have smooth edges from the base to about half way up, then are wavy or toothed to the rounded tip. The shrub's white flowers are small, clustered, and mildly scented. The fruit is a tubular achene, with a distinctive curly light thin feather-like extension going out 2 to 3 inches. The wood of the shrub extremely hard and reddish, from which the incorrect common name comes. Native American Californians used the hard wood for arrows, digging, spearing fish, and digging.
In California there are three varieties: C. betuloides var. betuloides, C. betuloides var. blancheae, and C. betuloides var. macrourus.