October 5, 2013

1 - Mountain mahogany plants are excellent native shrubs for most New Mexico landscapes.

Yard and Garden October 5, 2013


What is this plant (photo attached)? It is an attractive shrub that was growing in the mountains. Is it a good plant to consider for New Mexico landscapes? Is it available in nurseries?

Silver City


The picture you sent was from a plant called alderleaf mountain mahogany, Cercocarpus montanus. It is indeed a good native shrub to grow in New Mexico landscapes. It easily tolerates our climate and soils. I have seen it growing out of cracks in limestone cliffs. This is one of three species of mountain mahogany I have seen in New Mexico. The others that grow here are the littleleaf mountain mahogany (C. intricatus) and curl-leaf mountain mahogany (C. ledifolius). The alder leaf mountain mahogany has the broadest leaf of these species. The others have much smaller, narrower leaves. You can find pictures and additional information about these species at USDA Plants. The alderleaf mountain mahogany is a large shrub, sometimes appearing tree-like. It can reach a height of 20 feet when growing conditions are good. Cercocarpus are mpt dense shrubs, so other plants may be grown in the shade that they cast. The alder leaf mountain mahogany is deciduous, dropping its leaves in the winter. The curl-leaf mountain mahogany has smaller leaves that are often evergreen in New Mexico. An interesting characteristic of these members of the rose family is the fact that they produce a feathery, thread-like appendage on the seeds. This feathery appendage gives a silvery glisten to the plant in late summer into autumn. Native plants are often good choices for New Mexico landscapes, but gardeners should be careful to determine that the plants they choose are adapted to their particular environment. The mountain mahogany plants are adapted to most landscape condition in New Mexico. Mountain mahogany plants are available in many nurseries that sell native plants.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


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