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Cercocarpus betuloides facts for kids

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Cercocarpus betuloides
Cercocarpus betuloides blancheae.JPG
var. blancheae in fruit
Scientific classification
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. Its common names include mountain mahogany and birch leaf mountain mahogany The common name "mahogany" comes from the hardness and color of the wood, although the genus is not a true mahogany.

Range and habitat

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


Growth pattern

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

Leaves and stems

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.

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

Inflorescence and fruit

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

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:

  • Cercocarpus betuloides var. betuloides, rangewide
  • Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheaeCatalina mahogany, island mountain mahogany, limited to California, especially the Channel Islands
  • Cercocarpus betuloides var. macrourusfew flowered mountain mahogany, California and Oregon

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


Deer, cattle and sheep browse the plant.

The reddish 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.

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.

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