IUCN threat status:

Least Concern (LC)

Comprehensive Description

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General: Ephedra Family (Ephedraceae). Green ephedra is a dioecious, scraggly shrub rarely more than 60 cm to 150 cm high. The naked seeds are the features, which places Ephedra with the classical group, the gymnosperms. The microsporophylls are similar to the stamens of the flowering plant; they also correspond with the spore-bearing scales in the male cone of a pine tree (Benson and Darrow 1981).

The intricate network of brittle, practically leafless, bright green branches is the salient feature of the plant. The leaves are scale-like, 2 to 3 mm long, the bases and middle portions conspicuously dark brown, the rest light green and tending to be membranous, all but the bases falling away with age. In the springtime, the male plant becomes a conspicuous mass of yellow clusters of pollen sacs, and the green ovules (later brown seeds) are an obvious but less conspicuous feature of the female plant. At the Tucson PMC, green ephedra begins flowering in mid-to late-April. The pollen cones are spheroidal and 3 to 4 mm in diameter. The pollen sacs are relatively large, 0.5 mm long and 0.5 to 0.6 mm broad, and are practically lacking stalks. The ovulate cones have stalks 2 to 10 mm long, ovoid, and 5 to 7 mm long. The cone scales are in about 3 to 5 pairs, not membranous, and ovately shaped. They are green at the middles, lighter colored and thinner toward the margins, 2 to 5 mm long, and not stalked. The seeds are more or less boat-shaped, the flat "deck" of each facing the other member of the pair. They are dark greenish lead color, 5 to 7 mm long, about 2 to 2.5 mm broad, and not beaked (Benson and Darrow 1981).

At the onset of the flowering period, plants bearing ovules exert a structure called a micropylar tube at the apex of the ovule. The micropylar tube allows the ovule to produce and display a small droplet from the exerted end of the tube. This droplet is called a pollination droplet and it serves as a receptacle for airborne pollen (Pater 1991).


Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & Tucson Plant Materials Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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