Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber — Overview

Birch-leaf Mountain-mahogany learn more about names for this taxon


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Cercocarpus betuloides

Cercocarpus betuloides is a shrub or small tree in the Rose Family (Rosacea) that is native to Baja California and California.[1] Its common names include Birchleaf Mountain Mahogany[citation needed] and California Mountain Mahogany.[1] The common name "mahogany" comes from the hardness and color of the wood, although C. betuloides is not in the mahogany family.[1]

Range and habitat[edit]

It typically grows in dry areas in the foothills and mountains of California, often in chaparral communities,[1] and in other parts of the Southwestern United States and .


Growth pattern[edit]

It is a shrub or small tree growing from 3 feet (0.91 m) to 30 feet (9.1 m).[1][2] Its branches are incised and muscular in appearance from the side. In cross section they appear lobed.

Common shrub associates within the chaparral community include toyon.[3]

Leaves and stems[edit]

The 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.[1]

Betula is the birch genus, and the species name refers to the birch-like leaves.[1]

Inflorescence and fruit[edit]

The white flowers are small, clustered, and mildly scented, similar to acacia.[1]

The fruit is a tubular achene with the long, plumelike flower style still attached.

The genus name comes from the Greek kerkos ("tail"), referring to the tail-like appearance of the fruit; and carpus ("fruit"), thus, "fruit with tail".


The reddish[citation needed] wood of the shrub is very hard and was used by Californian Native American peoples to make arrow tips, fishing spears, and digging sticks.[1]


There are three varieties:[4][5]

  • C. betuloides var. betuloides, rangewide
  • C. betuloides var. blancheaeCatalina mahogany, island mountain mahogany, limited to California, especially the Channel Islands[6][7]
  • C. betuloides var. macrourusfew flowered mountain mahogany, California and Oregon[8][9]

Cercocarpus betuloides is sometimes treated as a part of Cercocarpus montanus,[10] var. glaber in particular.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Flowering Plants of the Santa Monica Mountains, Nancy Dale,2nd Ed, 2000, p. 170
  2. ^ Abrams, L. (1951). Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States. Stanford University Press. 874 pages ISBN 0-8047-0004-4
  3. ^ Hogan, C. M. (2008). Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia). GlobalTwitcher, ed. N. Stromberg.
  4. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
  5. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides. CalFlora.
  6. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae. The Jepson Manual, 2012.
  7. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae. CalFlora.
  8. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. macrourus. The Jepson Manual, 2012.
  9. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. macrourus. CalFlora.
  10. ^ Cercocarpus montanus. NatureServe. 2012.
  11. ^ Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber. USDA PLANTS.


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