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Conservation status

Ephedra trifurca

Torrey ex Watson 1871

Common names

Mexican-tea (Stevenson 1993), longleaf joint fir, popotilla, teposote, canatilla (Jaeger 1969).

Taxonomic notes

"The hybrid Ephedra × intermixta is discussed under E. torreyana." (Stevenson 1993).


"Shrubs erect, 0.5-5 m. Bark gray, cracked and irregularly fissured. Branches alternate or whorled, rigid, angle of divergence about 30°. Twigs pale green, becoming yellow, then gray with age, glaucous, with numerous very fine longitudinal grooves; internodes 3-10 cm. Terminal buds spinelike, to 10 mm. Leaves in whorls of 3, 5-15 mm, connate to 1/2-3/4 their length; bases becoming gray and shredded with age; apex spinose. Pollen cones 1-several at node, obovoid, 6-10 mm, on short, scaly peduncles; bracts in 8-12 whorls of 3, reddish brown, obovate, slightly clawed, 3-4 × 2-3 mm, membranous; bracteoles nearly equaling bracts; sporangiophores 4-5 mm, exserted to 1/4 their length, with 4-5 short-stalked microsporangia. Seed cones 1-several at node, obovoid, 10-15 mm, on short, scaly peduncles (rarely sessile); bracts in 6-9 whorls of 3, circular, 8-12 × 8-12 mm, papery, translucent with reddish brown center and base, base clawed, margins entire. Seeds 1(-3), ellipsoid, 8-15 × 1.5-3 mm, light brown, smooth. Coning late winter-early spring" (Stevenson 1993).

Distribution and Ecology

USA: California, Arizona, New Mexico & Texas; Mexico: Baja California Norte, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora (Stevenson 1993). Found on "[d]ry rocky slopes to flat sandy areas; 500-2000 m." (Stevenson 1993).

Big tree




Jaeger (1969) indicates it is rare, at least in the western part of its range, but may be found in the Superstition Mountains (AZ) and Los Algodones dunes (near Yuma, AZ).



See also

Land, W. J. G. 1907. Fertilization and embryogeny in Ephedra trifurca. Botanical Gazette 44:273-292.

Last Modified 2012-11-23