Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ephedra

Green Mormon Tea / Ephedra viridis is a tough, evergreen shrub for the drylands of the American West:

It is native to the Colorado Plateau, and it performs mightily. This is one underused evergreen shrub in Albuquerque. I guess it isn't brown, gray, or dead-looking enough for 10 months... It prefers sandy or gravelly soil, and it is at least as hardy as arid and semi-arid USDA z 5-8.

It did struggle some in the insanely hot summers of 2001-2003, but not before or since. But some agaves struggled, too.

That might suggest a lower, hotter climate limit at about 3000' elevation, from the Las Vegas - Abq latitude and points south.

Nice appearance in the dead of winter, too:


Ma Huang or Bluestem Joint Fir / Ephedra equisetina:

This is a native of western China's arid interior basins. Talk about a desert, plus highs are well over 100F much of the summer, and their winters are as cold as portions of the Great Basin. It is at least as hardy as arid and semiarid USDA z 5-8. Cool, blue stems.

And back home to the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico.


Canutillo or Desert Joint Fir / Ephedra trifurca:
Green like E. viridis, Canutillo gets larger, to about a 7' height and spread, and slightly open. It is native and at least as hardy as arid USDA z 7-9, (including Albuquerque, where it was documented before the city grew). It is uncommon this far north or from growers. It prefers sandy or gravelly soil.

Other relatives I didn't post on, with similar cultural needs, include:
Boundary Ephedra/ Ephedra aspera
Nevada Joint Fir / Ephedra nevadensis
Torrey Joint Fir / Ephedra torreyana (Abq native)

Hopefully, none of these tough, heat and drought-loving Ephedra plants will be overlooked for gardens for much longer.

12 comments:

  1. Ephedra - fascinating genus - I haven't come across it for a long time. Many years ago I designed a geology garden for Reading University and amongst the planting had the inevitable Ginkgo, some Pinus aristata, ferns and Ephedra. Apparently Ephedra dates back to the Cretaceous period - quite a survivor!

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    1. Yes, Ephedra is quite the pre-historic plant. And so unique in look, along with paloverdes in the Sonoran Desert and crucifixtion thorns in the Sedona area. Maybe I can sell it on those merits!

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  2. I love Ephedra, and remember many lovely plants from our recent SW vacation. Mainly in nurseries though, no so many planted in gardens. I've got an Ephedra minuta, it's struggling a little, hopefully we'll have a nice hot summer and it will be happy.

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    1. People here can't get enough of the various Scotch Broom cultivars, or Spanish Broom, but Ephedra is often unknown. I'll have to look up E. minuta!

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  3. Interesting. I love evergreens. We've had rain but I haven't forgotten last summer yet...not sure if I can bring myself to plant anything else.

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    1. Nice to see you again! I think 1 or 2 Ephedra species are native in S TX, but further west where drier. I know...I'm just glad all I planted last spring / summer lasted!

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  4. That is a great looking evergreen for the desert. Funny about the gray, brown, and dead look. I noticed that too when I was last there. Maybe you can use a few of these to do a little guerrilla across the street.

    We've had so much rain here this year I wonder if they would do okay.

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    1. It really is...the gray-brown-dead look is real, too. Glad it is not just me that saw it. I feel the need to post on how that happens, to follow-up on this winter's evergreen plant posts I've done. Not that those who do that listen, since they haven't for 20 years...they say, "but I don't care what it looks like in winter, I just want flowers in summer" (which in Abq's summer, means, spring and fall flowers on most plants, without tons of water or luck).

      The neighbor across the street sells chemicals, and has taken out a few plants that volunteered...he wanted me "to help him get some plants", then noted how "desert plants seem to not take the winters here", while he ignored all my nice, overly-generous and yes, *free* advice over the years.

      Not sure, but the bluer Ephedra takes more clay soils and Denver's often wet springs in stride...

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  5. Thanks for this! What a gorgeous plant! Plus, I've been wanting to plant one to deal with my asthma. The American Botanical Council down the street from me is growing it, so I'm going to try.

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    1. You're welcome! The last time I watered that plant was 2003...it started from a 4" pot that a friend from Colorado gave me in 2000...now it is 5' tall x 6' wide. It bakes from 11 am to sundown, and it is arid here.

      Found this on E. equisetina -
      http://www.horizonherbs.com/product.asp?specific=2055

      http://www.finegardening.com/plantguide/ephedra-equisetina-bluestem-joint-fir.aspx

      (a sidebar...a great but unrelated plant for colds is Navajo Tea, Thelosperma ---)

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  6. If a bush is nearby when I'm camping a sprig of it will usually end up in some boiling water the next morning for a coffee substitute. One site was about 4,500 feet up in the Mojave Desert, maybe not that different a climate from you (it had snowed lightly on me the night before).

    I'm a big fan of plants that look like this, part plant, part vaporous cloud. Nice to see it looking so good for you.

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    1. I must try that drink! Ephedra remind me of colder winter versions of Palo Verde trees. "Vaporous cloud" is a good description.

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