Cercocarpus ledifolius

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Cercocarpus ledifolius
Cercocarpus ledifolius 8219.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Cercocarpus
Species: C. ledifolius
Binomial name
Cercocarpus ledifolius
Cercocarpus ledifolius range map 2.png
Natural range of Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius is a species of mountain mahogany known by the common name curl-leaf mountain mahogany.


This is a large, densely branching shrub or a tree which may reach 10 meters in height. Its leathery, sticky, dark green leaves are up to 4 centimeters long and lance-shaped, and the edges may curl under. The flower consists of a small tan tube from which protrudes a long, plumelike style covered in luxuriant tan hairs. The flowers are arranged in inflorescences of up to 3. The fruit is a hairy achene one half to just over one centimeter long. This plant is distributed across western North America where it grows on low mountains and slopes.

It had a great many medicinal uses for various Native American groups, such as the Paiute and Shoshone.


This species is known to attain ages at least as great as 1,350 years (although the tree that yielded this age was cut down; Schultz et al. 1990). This makes it arguably the oldest known flowering plant. (Digression: Nearly all old plant ages are debatable because of sources of uncertainty).

Greater ages have been attributed to various olive trees (Olea europaea), but no one can point to a piece of olive wood with as many as 1,350 rings. A sacred fig (Ficus religiosa) in Sri Lanka was reportedly planted in 283 BC, but that date has been contested and in any event no remaining piece of wood appears to be that old. The 1,350 year date cited here is also potentially inaccurate due to dating uncertainties detailed by the authors. Much older plants are known to exist, but as clones, not as individuals.)

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