This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Greek, tail and fruit; the fruit with a long, hairy tail). Rosacese. Mountain Mahogany. Small trees or shrubs but rarely grown for their attractive evergreen or half-evergreen foliage and the peculiar feathery tailed achenes. Leaves alternate, persistent, rather small: flowers inconspicuous, apetal-ous, whitish or reddish, in the axils of fascicled leaves; calyx-tube cylindric, elongated, abruptly expanded at the apex into a cup-shaped deciduous, 5-lobed limb bearing 15-30 stamens with short filaments; ovary 1-celled, inclosed in the calyx-tube, with a long exserted style.: fruit a 1-seeded achene, surmounted by the persistent, long and hairy style. - Small genus of about 10, mostly rather local species, in the Rocky Mts. from Mont, south to Mex. and in Calif.
The cercocarpuses are not particularly ornamental, yet they are attractive with their small evergreen dark foliage and their feathery tailed fruits; they are adapted for planting on dry rocky or gravelly slopes in arid temperate regions, as they thrive under very unfavorable conditions. The very heavy and close-grained wood is manufactured into small articles, and valued as fuel and for making charcoal. C. ledifolius and C. parvifolius are the hardiest and stand frost to zero, while C. Traskiae can be grown only in southern California. They may be cultivated in any well-drained soil in sunny positions, and propagated by seeds or by cuttings of half-ripened wood under glass.
a. Margin of leaves toothed: flowers 2-5 in a cluster. B. Leaves oval to suborbicular, usually rounded at the base. Traskiae, Eastw. Tree, to 25 ft.: leaves coarsely sinuate-dentate above the middle, lustrous above, tomentose below, 1-2 1/2 in. long: achene with the style 2-2 1/2 in. long. Santa Catalina Isl., Calif. S.S. 13:635.
Nutt. Bushy tree, to 25 ft.: leaves dull green and pubescent above, pubescent or tomentose beneath, 1/2-1 1/2 in. long, with 4-5 pairs of veins: style 2-4 in. long. From Neb. and Ore. to Low. Calif, and W. Texas. S.S. 4:166. H.I. 4:323. - D. M. Andrews, of Colo., who handles this shrub, writes of it as follows: "Mountain mahogany, 6 feet. A nearly evergreen rosaceous shrub of peculiar and attractive habit of growth. Flowers white, early, followed by the long, plumose achenes, which are 3-5 in. long, strangely curled and twisted, arranged above and on each side of the slender branches, so that at a little distance they have an appearance suggestive of ostrich plumes. Easily transplanted, and thrives anywhere."
Nutt. (C. parvifolius variety glaber, Wats. C. parvifolius variety betuloldes, Sarg.). Small tree, to 30 ft.: leaves thinner, bright green and glabrous above at maturity, pubescent or glabrescent beneath, 1/2-2 in. long, with 5-6 pairs of veins: style 2-4 in. long. Calif. W.G.Z. 4, pp. 554-5. H.I. 4:322.
aa. Margin of leaves entire, revolute: flowers solitary or in pairs.
Nutt. Tree, to 40 ft.: leaves lanceolate, coriaceous, lustrous and glabrous above at maturity, pubescent below, resinous, 1/2-1 in. long, veins obscure: style 2-3 in. long. From Wyo. and Wash, to S. Calif, and New Mex. S.S. 4:165. H.I. 4:324.