New Mexico Wildflowers: Ephedra Family



Flowers are organized alphabetically by genus and species. Hover over a photo series to control the images.

Ephedra, Jointfir, Mormon Tea (Ephedra spp.)

Ephedra plants stand out for seeming to consist entirely of short green twigs connected end-to-end. (The popular names for this plant sometimes allude to the connecting points, or joints). There are multiple species of Ephedra in New Mexico, and I have given up trying to distinguish them. The plants contain small amounts of ephedrine, an important pharmaceutical. The term "pseudoephedrine" doesn't refer to synthetic ephedrine, as I assumed for many years, but to a slightly different chemical compound.


I made tea from this plant once, and found it too astringent to enjoy.


Ephedra plants are gymnosperms (like pines, spruces, and firs) and have tiny cones rather than flowers. The plants of most species are male or female. If you see cones with what look like anthers, those are male plants putting out pollen. Some botanists object to using "cone" for this plant's sexual parts, instead preferring the nerdier "strobilus" (plural: strobili).