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The genus Cercocarpus is a small group of plants containing about 13 species, all native to the western United States and Mexico, and particularly California. These are tough plants that are appreciated for their habitat and wildlife value in many plant communities. They have small leaves, tiny flowers and intriguing twisting seed plumes that are attractive when illuminated by sunlight. A few species are grown in ornamental gardens among other native plants, but most are planted for revegetation of native areas.

Western mountain mahogany is a large evergreen shrub with a rambling branch habit that can grow 10-15 ft. tall and as wide. Medium green leaves grow to 1 in. and have distinctly toothed margins. Tiny yellow flowers occur in spring; large numbers of seeds and seed plumes mature in spring and summer and are very attractive when highlighted by sunlight. Look for this plant mostly in botanic gardens and demonstration plantings where it adds pleasing diversity and adds to the wildlife value of the landscape.

Water Needs

Western mountain mahogany is adapted to normal winter rains and low amounts of supplemental water during summer. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; young plants will grow faster and larger with the higher amounts of supplemental moisture in this range.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Upright, Sprawling, Mounding, Low-branching
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 10 ft. - 15 ft.
Width: 10 ft. - 15 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Medium green
Flower Color: Yellow
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil
Exposure Adaptations: Heat, Drought, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Screening, Restoration, Hummingbird plant, Background plant, Attracts butterflies


Can be pruned in the fall to shape, maintain a narrow form, or "limbed up" into a small tree (2). If older trees are in need of a completely "reset" structure, they can also be coppiced, or cut all the way to the ground in the fall, to be replaced by entirely new growth (3). While this species is adapted to coppicing, realize there is always some risk, depending on health and conditions that the plant will not come back.



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