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Ephedra L.: ephedra or Mormon-teaAuthor(s): Susan E. Meyer
Source: In: Bonner, Franklin T.; Karrfalt, Robert P., eds. The Woody Plant Seed Manual. Agric. Handbook No. 727. Washington, DC. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. p. 492-494.
Publication Series: Agricultural Handbook
Station: Washington Office
PDF: Download Publication (190.0 KB)
DescriptionThe genus Ephedra - known in much of North America as Mormontea - comprises about 40 shrubby species that are found throughout the arid and semiarid regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Ephedras are gymnosperms that are characterized by their greatly reduced, bractlike leaves and their evergreen, broomlike photosynthetic stems. They are common plants in the semiarid region of western North America (table 1) and are often locally codominant with creosotebush (Larrea tridentata (Sesse & Moc. ex DC.) Coville), blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima Torr.), shadscale saltbush (Atriplex confertifolia (Torr. & Frem.) S. Wats.), and various species of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.). Species of ephedra are often the dominant vegetation on sand hills at middle elevations, where they perform an important role as sandbinders. They provide a significant source of browse for domestic livestock, especially sheep, and for wild ungulates such as mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana). The seeds provide food for rodents and birds. The twigs, especially those of green Mormon-tea, are used to make a reputedly refreshing tea, although ephedrine, the pharmaceutically active compound found in the Old World species E. sinica Stapf., has not been detected in any North American species. Ephedras are attractive and interesting plants, with considerable potential for landscape use, and green Mormon-tea can now be readily obtained from commercial nurseries.
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CitationMeyer, Susan E. 2008. Ephedra L.: ephedra or Mormon-tea. In: Bonner, Franklin T.; Karrfalt, Robert P., eds. The Woody Plant Seed Manual. Agric. Handbook No. 727. Washington, DC. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. p. 492-494.
KeywordsEphedra L., ephedra, Mormon-tea
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