Jepson eFlora: Taxon page
Vascular Plants of California
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Ephedra californica


Higher Taxonomy
Family: EphedraceaeView Description 
Habit: Shrub; generally dioecious; taproot deep. Stem: erect, prostrate, occasionally climbing, jointed, much branched, green in youth; branchlets opposite or whorled, cylindric, longitudinally grooved; pith brown or white. Leaf: simple, 2 (each pair at right angles to adjacent pairs) or 3 per node, scale-like, +- fused at base into membranous sheath, generally ephemeral; resin canals 0. Cone: axillary (terminal), sessile or not, 1--many per node, ovoid or ellipsoid. Pollen Cone: bracts 2--3 per node, proximal sterile, distal subtending 2 basally fused bractlets subtending a stalk with 2--10(15) sessile to stalked, anther-like parts with 2 apical pores. Seed Cone: stalk 1--11(50) mm, generally straight, naked or with reduced basal bracts; distal bracts in (2)4--10 pairs or whorls, free or fused, brown or green, scarious or fleshy, subtending 2 fused leathery bractlets enclosing 1 ovule. Seed: 1--3(4) per cone (in ×-section, +- round if 1, +- semicircular if 2, +- triangular if 3, etc.), +- spheric to ellipsoid or lance-ovoid, beaked or not.
Genera In Family: 1 genus, +- 50 species: arid, semi-arid (to tropical) regions of northern Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America.
eFlora Treatment Author: Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond
Scientific Editor: Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: EphedraView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Stem: spreading to generally erect, 0.3--2(4.5) m; uppermost bud generally conic, generally not thorn-like.
Etymology: (Greek: sitting upon, from jointed stems and/or ancient name for Equisetum, also with jointed stems)
Ephedra californica S. Watson
Stem: 0.3--1.5 m; twig yellow-green, aging gray-brown; uppermost bud narrowed but not thorn-like; pith dark brown. Leaf: 3 per node, 2--6 mm; +- white margins wearing off; base in age recurved, swollen. Pollen Cone: 1--many per node, 6--7.5 mm; bracts 3 per node. Seed Cone: 1--few per node, 4.5--8(10) mm, ovoid, stalk 1--2 mm, straight, basal bracts reduced; distal bracts 3 per node, ovate, free to base, scarious, center orange- or green-yellow, +- thickened, margins entire, translucent, stalk-like base short. Seed: generally 1, < 10 mm, generally > 2 × as long as wide, not beaked, smooth.
Ecology: Scattered in arid grassland, chaparral, creosote-bush scrub; Elevation: 70--1300 m. Bioregional Distribution: s SNF, Teh, w SnJV, SCoR, SW, D; Distribution Outside California: Baja California. Note: Plants of coast ranges, relative to plants of desert, taller, may have different ecological tolerances. Cones present Mar--Apr.
Jepson eFlora Author: Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond
Index of California Plant Names (ICPN; linked via the Jepson Online Interchange)

Previous taxon: Ephedra aspera
Next taxon: Ephedra foeminea

Botanical illustration including Ephedra californicabotanical illustration including Ephedra californica

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Citation for this treatment: Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond 2012, Ephedra californica, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on July 24, 2024.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2024, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on July 24, 2024.

Ephedra californica
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©2012 Keir Morse
Ephedra californica
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©2006 James M. Andre
Ephedra californica
click for image enlargement
©2012 Keir Morse
Ephedra californica
click for image enlargement
©2012 Keir Morse
Ephedra californica
click for image enlargement
©2004 James M. Andre

More photos of Ephedra californica
in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Ephedra californica:
s SNF, Teh, w SnJV, SCoR, SW, D
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map of distribution 1

(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurrence).


Data provided by the participants of the  Consortium of California Herbaria.

View all CCH records
All markers link to CCH specimen records. The original determination is shown in the popup window.
Blue markers indicate specimens that map to one of the expected Jepson geographic subdivisions (see left map). Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.

CCH collections by month Flowering-Fruiting Monthly Counts

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time (fruiting time in some monocot genera).