Family: Ephedraceae – Jointfir Family
Ephedra is the only genus from this family represented at Arches National Park. Dioecious shrubs; gymnosperm; 7.9” to 3.3' (2 to 10 m) tall; branches are blue green or olive green
Leaves: Leaves are reduced to 3 small triangular teeth at joints; scalelike leaves are opposite in whorls
Flowers: Gymnosperm: Staminate (male) and pistillate (female) cones on different plants
Pollinators: other Ephedra species are pollinated by wind; not self-fertile
Fruits: brown paired seeds
Blooms in Arches National Park: April, May, June
Habitat in Arches National Park: dry sandy or rocky areas in desert shrub and pinyon-juniper communities
Location seen: Park Avenue, Courthouse Towers
Other: The genus name, “Ephedra”, is the Greek name used by Pliny for the common mare's tail, “Hippuris”, which it somewhat resembles. The species name, “torreyana”, honors John Torrey (1796-1873), a professor of chemistry and a renowned botanist who described hundreds of plants brought or sent back by such explorers as John C. Fremont, William Emory, Charles Wilkes, Joseph Nicollet, Howard Stansbury and Charles Pickering.
The boiled stems have been used to make a tea which can work as a decongestant. The commercial drug ephedrine comes from an Ephedra which grows in China.