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Mountain Mahogany
Cercocarpus betuloides
About Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides) Nurseries Show All Photos California Mountain Mahogany typically grows in dry areas in the foothills and mountains of California, often in chaparral communities, and in other parts of the southwestern United States and Baja California. This shrub has a typical size of three to five meters in height. The etymology of the species name derives from the Greek kerkos, from which the genus name root cerco derives, meaning "tail", referring to the tail-like appearance of the fruit; and carpus meaning "fruit": thus fruit with tail. Betula is the genus for birch, and the species name refers to the birch-like leaves. 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. The shrub's white flowers are small, clustered, and mildly scented. The fruit is tubular, with a distinctive curly light thin feather-like extension going out 2 to 3 inches. The wood of the shrub is extremely hard and reddish, from which the incorrect common name comes. Native American Californians used the hard wood for arrows, digging and spearing fish.

This plant is great as a screening shrub. It's a great replacement for bamboo. Deer tend to browse on this plant, so some protections may be necessary.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
8 - 20 ft (2.4 - 6.1 m)

Max. Width
10 - 12 ft (3.0 - 3.7 m)

Rounded, Upright Columnar

Growth Rate
Fast, Moderate


Flower Color
Cream, White

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Slopes, often near runoffs or slightly damper areas, as part of chaparral or woodland with oaks or pines

Part Shade, Sun

Elevation ?
11' - 9839'

Annual Precip. ?
4.3" - 97.0"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 3.08"

Coldest Month ?
24.9° F - 57.5° F

Hottest Month ?
47.6° F - 84.2° F

Humidity ?
0.35 vpd - 35.59 vpd

Soil Description

Soil PH
5.0 - 8.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 20° F

Companion Plants
Good with oaks, Toyon, Coffeeberry species, Manzanita species, Ceanothus species, sages, and most other chaparral species

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low, Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?

No Summer Water
Keep moist

Organic with Rocks

Responds well to pruning/occasional hard pruning. Can be pruned to to fit well into narrow areas.

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment; 1-1.5 mos. stratification may improve germination (Heit 1971; Hildreth and Johnson 1976).

Common uses
Hedges, Bank Stabilization, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Birch-leaf Mountain-mahogany, Comes

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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