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California Jointfir (Ephedra californica)
Shrubs Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
California Jointfir (Ephedra californica)

General: California Jointfir (Ephedra californica) is a mid-sized, upright shrub with many dull, yellow-green to gray-green, apparently leafless stems. Individual twigs come off the stems at widely diverging angles. The leaves are reduced to scales, and photosynthesis takes place in the stems. Members of this plant family are cone-bearing plants more closely related to pine trees than to flowering plants. The small cones (about 1/3-inch long) can be seen in the spring when the shrub is flowering.

California Jointfir is a fairly common component of vegetation communities in the Lower Sonoran (Creosote-Bursage Flats) and Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub) life zones on lower-elevation, dry, rocky bajadas and canyons.

Around Las Vegas, look for California Jointfir south of town along Lake Mohave and in the Mojave National Preserve.

California Jointfir (Ephedra californica)

Around Las Vegas, there are eight species of Jointfir. California Jointfir can be recognized by leaves in sets of three and the dull, gray-green twigs that come off the stems at widely diverging angles. Mormon Tea and Nevada Jointfir can be recognized by the two-ranked leaves. California jointfir (Ephedra californica) and Death Valley Jointfir (Ephedra funerea), both three-ranked species, are common in some lower-elevation areas.

Family: Jointfir (Ephedraceae).

Other Names: mormon tea, California ephedra, ephedra

Plant Form: Erect shrub, apparently without leaves, stems gray-green.

California Jointfir (Ephedra californica)

Height: Usually to about 3 ft high and 4-5 ft wide.

Bark: Gray, fissured.

Stems: Stems and twigs jointed. Twigs gray-green, aging to yellowish.

Leaves: Tiny scales at the stem joints in sets of three.

Flowers: Blooms in the spring. Plants are male or females. Male plants have pollen cones that grow from nodes; pollen cones elliptical to 9-mm long. Female plants have seed cones that grow from notes; seed cones nearly spherical to 12-mm diameter.

California Jointfir (Ephedra californica)

Seeds: 3 by 7 mm, brown, smooth.

Habitat: Dry, well-drained sandy, gravelly, and rocky soils on upper bajadas and moderate slopes; rocky areas.

Elevation: To about 3,000 feet.

Distribution: Southwestern deserts (Nevada, Arizona, California, and south into Mexico).

Comments: Tea can be made by steeping the twigs in boiling water. The stems of most members of this genus contain the alkaloid ephedrine and are valuable in the treatment of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

California Jointfir (Ephedra californica) California Jointfir (Ephedra californica)
California Jointfir (Ephedra californica) California Jointfir (Ephedra californica)

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
copyright; Last updated 101102

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