FACT SHEET: Cliffrose

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Common Name: Cliffrose
Scientific Name: Cowania mexicana
Synonyms: Purshia mexicana, Cowania stansburiana
Family: Rose Family (Rosaceae)
Distribution: common and widely distributed in the Southwest
Habitat: desert shrub, foothill and middle montane habitats
Habit: statuesque shrub to small tree
Height: to 20'
Spread: 4-10'
Foliage Color: bright green
Leaves: small, leathery, evergreen, deeply many-lobed at the tip
Flower Color: cream-yellow
Flower Form: flowers like single roses 1-1.5" across, borne on spur branches
Flowering Season: 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). Probably grows faster if fertilized sparingly and provided with a few supplemental deep waterings each summer.

Culture: Seeds are dormant and require a 4-8 week moist chill to germinate. Can be successfully established from direct seedings in late fall. Plants produced as container stock and planted out grow quite slowly, and may require five or more years to reach flowering size.

Uses and Notes of Interest: Although somewhat slow-growing and problematic in container production, this plant is worth waiting for. It has many attractive features. First, the habit is unusual--the plants are usually taller than wide and the branches are borne at a steep angle, giving a rugged, picturesque look. The bark is reddish and shredding, somewhat like a eucalyptus, and the foliage has an intriguing resinous odor. The showy flowers are borne in profusion, filling the air with a sweet, clovelike fragrance. The fruits have long, plumose styles, which make the whole plant appear luminous in backlight. These fruits may be knocked or pulled from the branches by the handful when ripe. The styles are removed prior to planting.