Ephedraceae (Ephedra Family)
Species in this family are gymnosperms as are pines. There is only one genus, which occurs in arid regions. The plants are broomlike shrubs and appear to be leafless.
They do have small, scalelike leaves, however, mostly in pairs in the species included here. The plants are dioecious. The miniature cones produce a pair of seeds.
Ephedra nevadensisWatson. Nevada Ephedra. (Plate 6.74) An erect or sprawling dull-green shrub, 1–3 ft (3–9 dm) high, with rigid, somewhat spreading branches. The color is more bluish green than for other species, but there may be considerable variation. Male cones, about 1/4 in (6 mm) long, show an abundance of yellow stamens. Female plants bear small, stemmed cones about 3/8 in (1 cm) long containing a pair of smooth, dark brown seeds.
Distribution. Common, dry places; from the valley floors to Desert Scrub to Pinyon-juniper Woodland, 7,000 ft (2,134 m).
Ephedra viridisCoville. Green Ephedra, Indian Tea. (Plate 6.75) An erect yellowish green shrub, 1 1/2–4 ft (4.5–12 dm) high, with broomlike branches. Male cones are about 1/4 in (6 mm) long and yellow, with stamens. Female cones are 3/8 in (1 cm) long, have little or no stem, and contain two light brown to brown seeds. These are usually more slender than seeds of E. nevadensis. This shrub is a brighter green than Nevada Ephedra, and it usually occurs at higher elevations but there is some overlapping of their ranges and some hybridization between the two.
Distribution. Common; dry, rocky places; Desert Scrub to Subalpine Zone, 4,500–10,300 ft (1,372–3, 140 m).