Cercocarpus betuloides

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Cercocarpus betuloides
Cercocarpus betuloides blancheae.JPG
var. blancheae in fruit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Cercocarpus
Species: C. betuloides
Binomial name
Cercocarpus betuloides
Nutt. 1840
Cercocarpus betuloides range map 3.png
Natural range of Cercocarpus betuloides

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber (S. Watson) F.L. Martin

Cercocarpus betuloides is a shrub or small tree in the (rose family).[2] Its common names include mountain mahogany and birch leaf mountain mahogany[2][3] The common name "mahogany" comes from the hardness and color of the wood, although the genus is not a true mahogany.[2]

Range and habitat[edit]

The plant is native to California, Baja California, Oregon, Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico.[4] It typically grows in summer dry areas of the foothills and mountains of California, often in chaparral communities.[2]


Growth pattern[edit]

Cercocarpus betuloides is a shrub or small tree growing from 3 feet (0.91 m) to 30 feet (9.1 m).[2][5] 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.[6]

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.[2]

Betula is the birch genus, and the species name refers to the birch-like leaves.[2]

Inflorescence and fruit[edit]

The white flowers are small, clustered, and mildly scented, similar to acacia.[2]

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:[7][8]

  • Cercocarpus betuloides var. betuloides, rangewide
  • Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheaeCatalina mahogany, island mountain mahogany, limited to California, especially the Channel Islands[9][10]
  • Cercocarpus betuloides var. macrourusfew flowered mountain mahogany, California and Oregon[11][12]

Cercocarpus betuloides is sometimes treated as a part of Cercocarpus montanus,[13] var. glaber in particular.[14]


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.[2]

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.[15][16]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]