Ephedra is a genus of gymnosperm shrubs, the only genus in its family, Ephedraceae, and order, Ephedrales. Ephedra belongs to a unique division of plant species the Gnetophyta that is closely related to Angiosperms but more commonly resembles gymnosperms. In southern California, there are three species widely distributed in the arid environments. In particular, Ephedra californica can be found in the northern parts of the San Joaquin valley or as far south Baja California. When conducting habitat suitability mapping it appears that Ephedra could survive throughout the entirety Mojave Desert and the San Joaquin valley, however when viewing where it has been documented, it is actually in a much smaller area. Why? It is a bit of an unknown that I am hoping to tackle.
In Panoche Hills, California Ephedra californica can grow to extreme sizes of almost 4 meters in diameter. Yet, it’s recruitment has been non-existent for at least the past century. Working hypothesis is that Ephedra is a poor competitor with other species. Preliminary work shows that Ephedra requires full sun-light and even partial shading can limit both emergence and productivity. Moreover, Ephedra may respond to soil changes in composition. Still more to come, but the big goal is to get Ephedra californica recruiting again at Panoche Hills.