Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Ephedra Gerardiana

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Ephedra gerardiana (27/01/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Ephedra gerardiana (27/01/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Position: Full sun

Flowering period: Summer

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 60cm

Eventual Spread: 2m

Hardiness: 7a – 9a

Family: Ephedraceae

Ephedra gerardiana is an evergreen shrub with a thicket forming habit. Its mid green leaves are insignificant and up to 3mm long. Its stems are initially smooth, mid green and ascending with nodes. These stems become woody with age. Its yellow flowers are dioecious pollen cones, appear from the leaf axils, up to 5mm long and are not self fertile. Its red fruit are seed cones, up to 7mm across and appear in autumn.

Ephedra gerardiana, commonly known as Gerard’s Jointfir or Somlata, is native to the Himalayan Mountains. In its naive habitat it grows at an elevation of 3700m to 5300m on dry gravelly terraces. Ephedra gerardiana has a long history of medicinal use.

The etymological root of the binomial name Ephedra is from the Greek name given to Mare’s Tail (Equisetum) by Pliny, which this plant slightly resembles. Gerardiana is named after John Gerard (1545–1612), an English botanist.

Ephedra gerardiana Leaf (27/01/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Ephedra gerardiana Leaf (27/01/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

The landscape architect may find Ephedra gerardiana useful as an effective low growing ground cover. Once established this plant is drought tolerant.

Ecologically, Ephedra gerardiana is of little value to UK wildlife.

Ephedra gerardiana prefers moist, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil. It will not tolerate wet soils.

Ephedra gerardiana requires little maintenance.

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