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Alderleaf Mountain Mahogany Cercocarpus montanus

Phonetic Spelling
ser-ko-KAR-pus mon-TAY-nus
Description

Cercocarpus is Greek for 'tailed fruit', referring to the feathery fruit that are produced after flowering.   Mountain Mahogany is a native shrub or small tree in the rose family found in the western USA and northern Mexico along rocky hillsides, cliffs, open woods and mesas. It is found in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the great plains. It can reach heights of 20 feet but is often browsed by herbivores such as deer and elk, so generally stays around 3-8 feet tall. The showy, feathery seed heads are its most attractive feature.

With flowers that have a fragrance that is hardly detectable, when conditions are right, such as when good fall and summer moisture, this tree will put on a showy display of tiny red and yellow flowers.  When blooming in masses the fragrance can be strong and quite sweet. 

It prefers well-drained sandy to clay loams in full sun and is drought tolerant when established. Use this shrub on slopes for erosion control, borders or open woodland sites.

Its wood is strong and durable, but due to its twisted form, unsuitable for use as a building material.  Native Americans used the wood to make bows and spearheads.  It has also been used for tool handles.  Cut wood makes an excellent fuel source for campfires, and it's said that the leafy twigs helped to keep bedbugs away.  A reddish-brown dye can be made from the roots and bark that is used for dying baskets and leather.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  No serious issues.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#small tree#drought tolerant#shrub#windbreak#erosion control#showy fruits#large shrub#deer browsing plant#frost tolerant#long lifespan#evergreen shrub#evergreen tree#dry soils tolerant#host plant#tree
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#small tree#drought tolerant#shrub#windbreak#erosion control#showy fruits#large shrub#deer browsing plant#frost tolerant#long lifespan#evergreen shrub#evergreen tree#dry soils tolerant#host plant#tree
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cercocarpus
    Species:
    montanus
    Family:
    Rosaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Western North America
    Distribution:
    AZ , CA , CO , ID , KS , MT , NE , NM , NV , OK , OR , SD , TX , UT , WY
    Wildlife Value:
    Serves as a host plant for the Western sheepmoth and the Mountain Mahogany Hairstreak.
    Play Value:
    Buffer
    Screening
    Textural
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Dimensions:
    Height: 8 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 4 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Spreading
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9a, 9b, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gray/Silver
    White
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Spring
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a hard, cylindrical achene coated with silvery-white feathery tails
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Solitary flowers are petalless and occur in small clusters of 2-3 in the axils of branches.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are simple, alternate, lanceolate to obovate. Margins can be entire or toothed. Up to 2 inches long and 1 inch across, the leaves are dark green above and fuzzy silver underneath.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Red/Burgundy
    Bark Description:
    The thin and smooth bark can be flecked with scales on older branches.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Border
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Erosion