Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Rosales
Family Rhamnaceae
Genus Cercocarpus
Species C. ledifolius
Binomial name Cercocarpus ledifolius

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the plant curl leaf mountain mahogany are desert mahogany.


Cercocarpus is from the Greek word kerkos, "tail," and karpos, "fruit," an allusion to the tail-shaped achene's and the birch-like leaves. The name Mountain-mahogany applied to this genus is misleading; these shrubby trees are not related to true mahogany (Swietenia), a valuable cabinet wood of tropical America. The dark reddish-brown, mahogany-coloured heartwood may have led to this name. Navajo Indians made a red dye from the roots by grinding and then mixing them with juniper ashes and powdered alder bark.



Curl-leaf mountain-mahogany is a 10-20 ft. evergreen shrub or small tree with white bark and small, leathery leaves - dark-green on top and silvery underneath. Slightly resinous and aromatic evergreen shrub or small tree with compact, rounded crown of widely spreading, curved, and twisted branches and many stiff twigs. The leaves are narrow and pinched at the mid-rib, and then bent to one side, hence the name curl-leaf. The flowers are inconspicuous, but the short, spiral, silver-haired seed plumes are eye-catching. The whole plant has a spicy aroma. The fruit is a long twisted plume, with a distinctive curl in it. It is said to resemble a pipe cleaner.


Curl leaf mountain mahogany is widely distributed in the intermountain west, west into California and north into Washington and Montana. Ledifolius grows in very few different types of environments, which could be considered high plains deserts or the lower steppe of the mountainous forests.


Curl leaf mountain mahogany is usually found in dry gravely arid slopes in the mountain ranges of the interior regions generally within an altitude of 1500 - 2700 metres.


It generally prefers dry, gravely slopes and low water requirement. Seeds have a low germination rate, as they are extremely dormant. Soaking the seeds in hydrogen peroxide (from the market) for 24 hours will help break the dormancy. Rinse seed and cold treat for 30 to 60 days. Sow seed into container and cover to depth. To sow seed outdoors in the desired location use a generous amount of seed and cover with �" of soil. Sow any time of year and start watching for plants the following spring. Can be produced from cuttings in the spring from the previous season's growth. Seed are sown in spring in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood take place in July or August in a frame. Some members of this genus have a symbiotic relationship with certain soil micro-organisms; these form nodules on the roots of the plants and fix atmospheric nitrogen.

Flowering Season

The small yellow flowers of the shrub curl leaf mountain mahogany are bloom from March through April.

Pests and Diseases

Mountain mahogany is rarely affected by pinyon needle scale and also by parasites like mistletoe, which weakens trees and subjects them to killing. Most commonly it is affected by aphids and powdery mildew.

Parts Used


The root and the bark are the most commonly used parts of the plant for its medicinal and commercial purposes.

Medicinal Applications

• The bark of Mountain mahogany is ant haemorrhagic, cardiac, stomachic and tonic.

• A decoction has been used in the treatment of coughs, colds, pneumonia, spitting up of blood, stomach aches, diarrhoea, tuberculosis and VD.

• It is also used in treating sores, cuts, wounds and burns.

• It has also been sprinkled on syphilitic sores.

• An exudation from the plant has been dried, ground into a powder and applied to the ear to treat earaches.

Commercial Applications


• The scraped bark makes a flavourful addition to a brew of Mormon tea.

• A red dye is obtained from the inner bark which is used for commercial purposes.

• The wood being really very hard and dense it is used for furniture making.

• It makes an excellent fuel, giving off intense heat whilst burning for a long time.

• It is occasionally used in the manufacture of small articles for domestic and industrial use.

• It is used in novelties.

• Curl leaf mountain-mahogany can be used for water-efficient landscaping in arid environments.

• Because curl leaf mountain-mahogany wood burns slowly, it was the preferred charcoal wood used for smelting ores in the nineteenth century. It is also highly prized as a barbecue fuel.

• Curl leaf mountain-mahogany foliage is out of reach of browsing animals but provides excellent winter cover.


The astro reports from various researches say that this plant is governed by the planet Sun.

Quotes from History

Mountain mahogany is said to be one of the oldest flowering plant. This species is known to attain ages at least as great as 1,350 years. This makes it arguably the oldest known flowering plant. It had a great many medicinal uses for various Native American groups, such as the Paiute and Shoshone.

Folklores and Myths

Generally a myth prevails for this California native plant is that it looks scrawny, scraggly and ratty. The Goshute Indians of Utah made bows from this wood.