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Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)
Shrubs Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)

General: Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis) is a mid-sized, upright shrub with many dull, gray-green, apparently leafless stems. Individual twigs come off the stems at widely diverging angles. The actual leaves are reduced to scales, and photosynthesis takes place in the stems. Members of this plant family are cone-bearing plants more closely related to pine trees than to flowering plants. The small cones (about 1/3-inch long) can be seen in the spring when the shrub is flowering.

Around Las Vegas, two species of Ephedra are common (there are eight species in Nevada). Nevada Jointfir can be recognized by leaves in sets of two and the dull, gray-green twigs that come off the stems at widely diverging angles (look for two-ranked stem joints and cones). Mormon Tea can be recognized by the two-ranked leaves and bright green twigs that all point upward. In addition, Nevada Jointfir generally occurs at a lower elevation than Mormon Tea. California jointfir and Death Valley Jointfir (Ephedra funerea), both three-ranked species, are common in some lower-elevation areas.

Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)
Widely diverging stems.

Nevada Jointfir is a common component of vegetation communities in the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub and Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) life zones and can be found on dry, rocky bajadas, canyons, and the lower slopes of mountains.

Family: Jointfir (Ephedraceae).

Other Names: mormon tea, nevada ephedra, ephedra

Plant Form: Erect shrub, apparently without leaves, stems gray-green.

Height: Usually to about 3 ft high and 4-5 ft wide.

Bark: Gray, fissured.

Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)
Flowers.

Stems: Stems and twigs jointed, joints 2-3 inches apart. Twigs alternate (2-ranked), rigid, angling away from the stem. Twigs gray-green, aging to yellowish.

Leaves: Tiny scales at the stem joints in sets of two (on opposite sides of the stem).

Flowers: Blooms in the spring. Plants are male or females. Male plants have pollen cones that grow from nodes; pollen cones elliptical to 8-mm long. Female plants have seed cones that grow from notes; seed cones nearly spherical to 11-mm diameter, set on short stalks.

Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis) cones
Two-ranked cones.

Seeds: 3 by 7 mm, brown, smooth.

Habitat: Dry, well-drained sandy, gravelly, and rocky soils on upper bajadas and moderate slopes in the lower mountains; rocky areas.

Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)
Cones are often bunched together, but look for two-ranked stem and cones to identify this species.

Elevation: 2,500 to 6,000 feet.

Distribution: Southwestern deserts (Nevada, Arizona, California, and Utah) in the Mojave and Colorado deserts.

Comments: Tea can be made by steeping the twigs in boiling water. The stems of most members of this genus contain the alkaloid ephedrine and are valuable in the treatment of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)
Dense, angular jointed stems
Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)
Dense, angular jointed stems
Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis) Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)
Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis) Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)
Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis) Nevada Jointfir (Ephedra nevadensis)

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
copyright; Last updated 170904

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