UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA
University of California
UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA

Water Wise Plants

Cercocarpus betuloides

Pronunciation
ser-koe-KAR-pus be-tull-OY-dees
Common Name
Mountain Mahogany
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
5-12 ft. tall and wide, adult size can vary
Water Requirements
None: avoid summer water
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Flower Color
Small yellow flowers
Wildlife
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Cercocarpus is a useful informal hedging plant. It can also be pruned into a small tree. In the Palo Alto Demonstration garden we have it planted on the edge of our garden in an infrequently watered bed. It provides a buffer to the ivy cover area beyond our demonstration beds. The plant is evergreen, which adds to it usefulness as a screening plant.

We were recently inspired by a picture in Plants for Summer-Dry Climates to prune this Cercocarpus to have a more open form. It is very hard to see from this photo, but it is now a very attractive, airy shrub. This plant has been very slow growing for us, so we hope it will not be difficult to maintain this form.

Sunset says this plant requires full sun, but it has does just fine in an area that receives some shade. Because it is a California native from the foothills, it can get by on little to no water once established.

Because this plant is so slow growing, the only maintenance we've had to do is light pruning to keep its open branching form. The plant has had no problems with pests or diseases. Cercocarpus is a soft and elegant looking shrub that we think should be planted more frequently in Bay Area gardens.

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