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  • Ellen Zagory

    The tree’s unusual seed pods are covered with silky fuzz.

  • Ellen Zagory

    Island mountain mahogany is a California native tree that needs little water, likes the full sun and supports wildlife.

A small native tree that keeps beneficial insects happy

Published: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Saturday, May. 31, 2014 - 6:57 pm

This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum “New Front Yard” series, 41 drought-tolerant and beautiful plants well adapted to our region.

Island mountain mahogany

Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae

Size: 15 to 20 feet tall

Bloom season: Winter

Pruning needs: Little or none; light pruning to shape

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.

Snapshot: Who says the New Front Yard has to be flat? A California native, this small tree thrives in full sun and dry soil, although it tolerates a little shade, too. In early winter, tiny white flowers attract beneficial insects. More noticeable are the unusual seed pods; they curl upward and are covered with bright, silky fuzz. These seed pods also give this tree its botanical name, Cercocarpus, which means “fruit with tail.” You can see specimens in the Ruth Risdon Storer Valley-Wise Garden and the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the University of California, Davis, campus.

• For more on the New Front Yard, click on

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See photo galleries of the arboretum’s Community Favorites and Arboretum All-Stars at

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