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
Curl-leaf mountain mahogany
Description: 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.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Fruit (seedheads)||Long, dry achene with a 2 to 3 inch plume|
|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
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. 2003.
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: http://www.nativeplantnetwork.org (accessed 2 January 2009). Moscow (ID):
University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources, Forest Research Nursery.