click picture for larger version
Common Name: Green Mormon Tea
Other Common Names: Brigham Tea, Mexican Tea, Jointfir
Scientific Name: Ephedra viridis
Family: Jointfir Family (Ephedraceae)
Distribution: western North America
Habitat: upland desert and foothill habitats, usually in sandy or rocky soil
Foliage Color: bright green
Leaves: tiny, scalelike; it is the bright green stems that give the plant its color
Flower Color: golden
Flower Form: borne in pairs along the branches, male and female flowers on separate plants, not produced every year even on mature plants
Flowering Season: spring to early summer
Cultural Requirements: Prefers full sun and well-drained soils. Fully cold-hardy. Drought hardy (i.e., needs no supplemental water after establishment on the Wasatch Front), and intolerant of overwatering.
Culture: Green mormon tea can be obtained from late fall direct-seeding if competition from perennial grasses is not too heavy. The seeds are large and must be planted at a depth of at least 0.5". In nature this planting is taken care of by rodents, such as kangaroo rats, that cache the seeds. The plants are relatively slow growing both in container culture and after planting out. They require several years to reach flowering size.
Uses and Notes of Interest: This handsome, sprawling shrub is excellent for xeriscape landscapes. Although it takes some time to grow large, it is attractive and adds interest even when small, especially in the wintertime, when it is one of the few plants that stays bright green. A related Asian species is the source of the drug ephedrine. Although our plant has not been found to contain this particular compound, it was widely used by native peoples and settlers alike as a tonic and medicine. There are several closely related species of mormon tea in Utah. This species is characterized by bright green, erect, broomlike stems and a preference for slightly higher, rockier habitats.