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).[1] Its common names include Mountain mahogany and Birch leaf mountain mahogany[2][1] The common name "mahogany" comes from the hardness and color of the wood, although the genus is not in the mahogany family.[1]

Range and habitat[edit]

The plant is native to California and Baja California, and into Oregon and Arizona. It typically grows in summer dry areas of the foothills and mountains of California, often in chaparral communities.[1]


Growth pattern[edit]

Cercocarpus betuloides is a shrub or small tree growing from 3 feet (0.91 m) to 30 feet (9.1 m).[1][3] 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.[4]

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".



There are three varieties:[5][6]

  • Cercocarpus betuloides var. betuloides, rangewide
  • Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheaeCatalina mahogany, island mountain mahogany, limited to California, especially the Channel Islands[7][8]
  • Cercocarpus betuloides var. macrourusfew flowered mountain mahogany, California and Oregon[9][10]

Cercocarpus betuloides is sometimes treated as a part of Cercocarpus montanus,[11] var. glaber in particular.[12]


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

Cercocarpus betuloides is cultivated as an ornamental plant by specialty nurseries for planting in native plant, drought tolerant, and wildlife gardens; and in designed natural landscaping projects and habitat restoration programs. [13] [14]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Calflora Database . accessed 2.28.2015
  3. ^ Abrams, L. (1951). Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States. Stanford University Press. 874 pages ISBN 0-8047-0004-4
  4. ^ Hogan, C. M. (2008). Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia). GlobalTwitcher, ed. N. Stromberg.
  5. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
  6. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides. CalFlora.
  7. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae. The Jepson Manual, 2012.
  8. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae. CalFlora.
  9. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. macrourus. The Jepson Manual, 2012.
  10. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. macrourus. CalFlora.
  11. ^ Cercocarpus montanus. NatureServe. 2012.
  12. ^ Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber. USDA PLANTS . accessed 2.28.2015
  13. ^ Las Pilitas Horticulture Database: Cercocarpus betuloides (Mountain Mahogany) . accessed 2.28.2015
  14. ^ Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Information Network−NPIN: Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber (Smooth mountain mahogany) . accessed 2.28.2015


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