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Trees, Flowers and Grasses
of the Desert Southwest-
Edible,Medicinal, and Nuisance Plants

Page 1- Pinyon Pine, Mormon Tea, Prickly Pear Cactus
Page 2- Cattails, Purslane, Lemonadeberry
Page 3- Prince's Plume, Poison Ivy, Russian Olive

Page 4- Mountain Mahogany, Willow, Fremont Barberry

Mountain Mahogany

Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus spp.) has a large range, found throughout the west at elevations from about 3,000 to 9,500 feet. It is considered a shrub, growing from 4 to 6 feet tall, but Trees and Shrubs of the Southwest Uplands states that it can be found as tall as 20 feet tall under optimal conditions.

Olsen in Outdoor Survival Skills puts wood from the mountain mahogany first on the list for wood suitable for making bows.

mountain mahogany


The willow (Salix exigua), is a very useful plant found throughout the west. It is known commonly as coyote willow, sandbar willow or narrowleaf willow, and is typically found along waterways. It can grow to heights of 20 feet under the best conditions and is found at elevations from 3,500 to as high as 9,000 feet. Its leaves are about .5 inch wide by between 1 and 5 inches long. It is a water loving plant, and although water may not be visible at the surface where the tree is found, its presence usually signals that water is not far underground.

Deer and elk feed on the willow, beaver use it as food and in the construction of their dams. Willow provides a natural source of aspirin- the bark of small twigs can be chewed to relieve headaches. Leaves and roots can be made into a tea and drunk to relieve headaches and pain. Stems of the willow can be used for carry baskets, fish baskets (traps), and in creating channels to trap fish in shallows. Olsen in Outdoor Survival Skills recommends using young willow shoots found growing in dark locations for arrow shafts. The dark location insures the straightest possible shoots, as they grow upright in search of sunlight.


Beaver dam along 25 mile wash, excalante region, utah. Most of the structure is from sandbar willow.

Fremont Barberry

Fremont barberry (Berberis fremontii) is found throughout the west, and south into Mexico. It is also called Fremont holly or Fremont holly-grape. It can be seen at elevations from 4,000 feet up to 7,000 feet. It grows to 10 feet in height. The leaves resemble leaves of a full size holly, only in miniature. It bears small, grape-like fruit that can be eaten as-is or included in various recipes.

fremont barberry

fremont barberry, detail photograph

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