Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany in the Landscape


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    Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany in the Landscape


    Heidi Kratsch, Utah State University
    Graham Hunter, Research Associate, Center for Water Efficient Landscaping

    January 2009 | HG/Native Plants/2009-03

    Cerocarpus ledifolius

    Curl-leaf mountain mahogany

    close up view of curl-leaf mountain mahogany seed headsDescription: Curl-leaf mountain mahogany is a marvelous large shrub to small tree that would look good in any ornamental landscape, but is especially adapted for low-water landscapes. It is the only broadleaf evergreen tree in the Intermountain West, and as such it offers an interesting winter contrast to the standard landscape conifer.

    It achieves a rather gnarly and quite intriguing shape with age. Seeds have long, cork-screw, feather-like plumes that cover the tree, creating an almost fuzzy appearance from a distance. The leaves are distinctively aromatic, evergreen and, curled under, thus its common name.

    Cultural Requirements

    Native Habitat                                                                                Dry hills and rocky slopes throughout the West at elevations
    from 5,000 to 10,000 feet
    Soil Well drained, tolerates poor soil
    conditions; prefers coarse, rocky
    slopes; pH 6.0 to 9.0
    Cold Tolerance USDA Zones 3-8
    Drought Tolerance High
    Salt Tolerance Unknown
    Sun/Shade Preference Full sun to part shade
    Transplanting Deep tap root makes it difficult to transplant
    Propagation Seed or hardwood stem cuttings
    Maintenance Prune in winter; tolerates hedging or shearing
    Problems Browsed by deer

    Landscape Value

    Use in the landscape                                                                     Specimen, background, soild stabilization, wildlife protection
    Foliage Fine-textured, 3-5 lobes, one-half inch in length, evergreen
    Inflorescence Rose-like, white with yellow centers

    seasonal color chart curl-leaf mt mahogany

    Fruit (seedheads)                                                                  Long, dry achene with a 2 to 3 inch plume
    Form Upright shrubby
    Texture Coarse
    Ultimate Size 8 - 15 feet 
    Rate of Growth Slow
    Plant Community Parkland, pinyon-juniper, shrub steppe, mountain brush
    Availability Utah's Choice selection 
    Cultivars None of ornamental value


    To start seed indoors soak seed in hydrogen peroxide for up to 24 hours. Rinse well. Cold, moist stratify for 30
    to 60 days. Sow seed into container and cover with ¼ inch soil. To sow seed outdoors, use a generous amount
    of seed and cover with ¼ inch of soil. Sow in fall and watch for germinated seedlings the following spring.
    Cuttings should be collected in the spring from the previous season’s growth

    Additional Photos

    single Mountain mahogany shrub in native habitatMountain mahogany in a landscape setting

    Photo credits: Roger Kjelgren


    Cerny, T., L. Rupp, C. Reid, and M. Kuhns. 2002. Selection and Culture of Landscape Plants in Utah: A guide
    for southwestern and central Utah. Utah State University Extension Bulletin HG 500.3 

    Mee, W., J. Barnes, R. Kjelgren, R. Sutton, T. Cerny, and C. Johnson.
    Waterwise: Native Plants for Intermountain Landscapes. Utah State University Press, Logan, UT.

    Rupp, L., R. Kjelgren, J. Ernsten, and W. Varga. 1997. Shearing and Growth of Five Intermountain Native
    Shrub Species. Journal of Environmental Horticulture 15(3):123-125.

    Zeidler, Scott; Justin, John. 2003. Propagation protocol for production of field-grown Cercocarpus ledifolius
    Nutt. plants (2+0); Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Land - Lone Peak Nursery, Draper, Utah. In:
    Native Plant Network. URL: (accessed 2 January 2009). Moscow (ID):
    University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources, Forest Research Nursery.

    This fact sheet belongs to a series of fact sheets about Intermountain West native trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses called “Native Plants in the Landscape.” 

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