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Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Shrubs Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)

General: Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) is a mid-sized, upright shrub with many dull, blue-green to gray, apparently leafless stems. Individual twigs come off the stems at widely diverging angles. The leaves are reduced, and photosynthesis takes place in the stems. Leaves are set in whorls of three.

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. The cones are always sessile, and the seeds are scabrous (rough).

Torrey's 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.

Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)

Around Las Vegas, look for Torrey's Jointfir north of town along Lake Mead, Valley of Fire, and in the Gold Butte region.

There are eight species of Jointfir around Las Vegas. Torrey's Jointfir can be recognized by leaves in sets of three; twigs that are blue-green, aging to gray, and come off the main stems at widely diverging angles. Mormon Tea and Nevada Jointfir can be recognized by the two-ranked leaves.

Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)

Family: Jointfir (Ephedraceae).

Other Names: mormon tea, ephedra

Plant Form: Erect shrub, apparently without leaves.

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

Bark: Gray, fissured.

Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Pollen cone

Stems: Stems and twigs jointed. Alternate or whorled, angle of divergence about 45°. Twigs blue-green, aging to gray.

Leaves: Tiny scales at the stem joints in whorls of three. Leaf bases becoming gray and shredded with age; apex acute.

Flowers: Blooms in the spring. Plants are male or females. Male plants have pollen cones that grow from nodes; pollen cones elliptical to 8-mm long. Female plants have seed cones that grow from notes; seed cones nearly spherical to 15-mm diameter.

Seeds: 3 by 10 mm, brown, scabrous (rough).

Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Seed cone

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

Elevation: About 1,500 to 6,500 feet.

Distribution: Nevada to Texas, 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.

Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
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Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana)
Torrey's Jointfir (Ephedra torreyana) more to come ...

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
copyright; Last updated 101106

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