Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: California Joint-fir, Desert Tea
Ephedra californica

Family: Ephedraceae
Genus: Ephedra (eh-FED-ruh) (Info)
Species: californica (kal-ih-FOR-nik-uh) (Info)


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us


1 positive
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Equilibrium On Mar 16, 2006, Equilibrium wrote:

Nice plant, indigenous to North American and specifically to the state of California.

This plant doesn't flower so I wanted to cut and paste some thing from a websites for those interested in collecting seed to try their hand at propagating this species.

One site notes:

Quoting:Since E. californica is a gymnosperm, it has no actual flowers, but instead it produces pollen and seed cones, with one sex of cones per plant. This strategy ensures that plants will cross-pollinate, since an individual plant cannot pollinate itself (Judd, 2002). Ephedra are wind pollinated and only reproduce during years where there is ample rainfall. The plants may go for years without setting seed, but when they finally do reproduce, they release an enormous amount of seed all at once. And it is not just one plant that reproduces, but most to all of the plants will reproduce during these rain events. After reproducing, the seeds remain dormant in the soil for several years, even if heavy rains occur during that dormant period. After the dormant period, the seeds will germinate with the next heavy rain (Meyer,2005).

This method of reproduction and seed dispersal is a reflection of the resource limitation, particularly water, that Ephedra californica faces in its natural habitat, where there is no rain for more than half of the year. Also, the sandy soils they live on have very little water holding capacity. Ephedra have evolved a strategy for taking advantage of the precious and unpredictable heavy rainfall. Their strategy of establishing a large seed bank during a time of water availability is commonly seen in different arid climate plant species, particularly in Mediterranean climates (Gurevitch et. al, 2002).

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