Cercocarpus betuloides

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Cercocarpus betuloides
Cercocarpus betuloides blancheae.JPG
var. blancheae in fruit
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Cercocarpus
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]


Deer, cattle and sheep browse the plant.[15]

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.[16][17]


  1. ^ The Plant List, Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber (S.Watson) F.L.Martin
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Flowering Plants of the Santa Monica Mountains, Nancy Dale,2nd Ed, 2000, p. 170
  3. ^ Calflora taxon report, University of California, Cercocarpus betuloides Torrey & A. GrayMountain mahogany, birch leaf mountain mahogany . accessed 2.28.2015
  4. ^ Biota of North America Program 2014 county distribution map
  5. ^ Abrams, L. (1951). Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States. Stanford University Press. 874 pages ISBN 0-8047-0004-4
  6. ^ Hogan, C. M. (2008). Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia). Archived July 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine GlobalTwitcher, ed. N. Stromberg.
  7. ^ "Cercocarpus betuloides". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  8. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides. CalFlora.
  9. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae. The Jepson Manual, 2012.
  10. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae. CalFlora.
  11. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. macrourus. The Jepson Manual, 2012.
  12. ^ Cercocarpus betuloides var. macrourus. CalFlora.
  13. ^ Cercocarpus montanus. NatureServe. 2012.
  14. ^ Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber. USDA PLANTS . accessed 2.28.2015
  15. ^ Whitney, Stephen (1985). Western Forests (The Audubon Society Nature Guides). New York: Knopf. p. 388. ISBN 0-394-73127-1.
  16. ^ Las Pilitas Horticulture Database: Cercocarpus betuloides (Mountain Mahogany) . accessed 2.28.2015
  17. ^ Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Information Network−NPIN: Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber (Smooth mountain mahogany) . accessed 2.28.2015

External links[edit]