Birchleaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides) - TheBackCountry

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.

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.

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.

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.

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".

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.

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